Investigation into bail management of fugitive found dead in a Taranaki creek

Thomas Holland had his ankle bracelet removed by Corrections so he could catch a flight to New Plymouth for a court hearing on June 11. He never made his return flight to Christchurch and on July 7 he was found dead in a New Plymouth creek.
Supplied/NZ POLICE
Thomas Holland had his ankle bracelet removed by Corrections so he could catch a flight to New Plymouth for a court hearing on June 11. He never made his return flight to Christchurch and on July 7 he was found dead in a New Plymouth creek.

Corrections is reviewing the bail management of a defendant who gave authorities the slip and was found dead weeks later in Taranaki.

On Wednesday, Corrections Deputy National Commissioner Andy Milne confirmed an investigation into the handling of Thomas Holland's electronically-monitored bail was being carried out.

Holland, 25, had been on the run from police since mid-June and was found dead in a New Plymouth creek on Sunday. Police have since confirmed his death was not suspicious, although no further details have been released.

tributes, including flowers, blue bandanas (gang colours), and a candle have been placed at the site Holland's body was found, near the Mangaotuku Stream at the rear of Devon Intermediate School in New Plymouth.
SIMON O'CONNOR/STUFF
tributes, including flowers, blue bandanas (gang colours), and a candle have been placed at the site Holland's body was found, near the Mangaotuku Stream at the rear of Devon Intermediate School in New Plymouth.

In an emailed response to questions, Milne explained the details of Holland's bail and the circumstances in which he fled from authorities after having his tracking bracelet removed to catch a flight.

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Holland, who had a gang-related hand gesture tattooed on his left cheek and ties with gang Uru Taha, or West Side, was facing violence and dishonesty charges for which he was subject to court-imposed electronically-monitored bail at an approved address in Christchurch.

Milne said Holland, who had absconded police in the past, was subject to a range of bail conditions and had been required to appear in New Plymouth District Court on June 11.

He was granted permission to travel and reside at a temporary address in Taranaki overnight on June 10, with a planned return to Christchurch following his court appearance that same day, Milne said. 

Because civil aviation regulations require removal of the tracker before flying, Holland's ankle bracelet was removed at Christchurch Airport on June 10, and re-fitted on his arrival in New Plymouth at the temporary address. 

Milne said, where operationally possible, removal of the bracelet happened at the airport immediately prior to the person boarding the plane. 

But in preparation of his return flight to Christchurch, the device was removed by a Corrections-contracted field officer at the New Plymouth Community Corrections office, about 12 kilometres from the airport, following his court appearance. 

When Holland did not arrive at Christchurch Airport, Corrections contacted police and a warrant for his arrest was issued.

Milne said no formal variation to Holland's bail conditions had been required, but the suitability of the temporary address in Taranaki was assessed by Corrections in consultation with police.

The Bail Act allows for Corrections to approve a temporary address in certain circumstances, including where a defendant would otherwise struggle to attend a required court appearance, he said. 

When asked if Holland's known history of running from police was taken into consideration when the variation to his bail was approved, Milne said: "A range of factors are considered in assessing the suitability of any temporary address, including an individual's current and historic charges."

On June 22, armed police officers surrounded a house on Broadway, in Waitara, in a pre-planned operation to find him.

Police cordons were put in place but he was not found at the address.

Holland was last seen on June 24 in the Spotswood area of New Plymouth.

His body was discovered in the Mangaotuku Stream at the rear of Devon Intermediate School in New Plymouth by a member of the public on Sunday afternoon.

Although the exact cause of Holland's death has been ruled not suspicious, police are continuing to make inquiries around the circumstances leading up to his body being found.

Meanwhile, tributes, including flowers, blue bandanas (the gang's colours), and a candle have been placed at the site where Holland's body was found. 

People have also taken to social media to pay their respects.

One person posted: "Gonna miss you tomo bro rest in peace much love and respect condolences to your family (sic)." Another wrote: "Love you my brother, Mo ake ake."

Stuff