A New Zealand fugitive, who embarrassed authorities with the ease with which he fled to Brazil while serving a life sentence for murder and child molestation, has been returned to prison.
Investigations are now underway in New Zealand into how Phillip Smith was able to amass several thousand dollars while behind bars, obtain a new passport and then take off on a flight to Chile and on to Brazil.
His taste of freedom only lasted a few days before he was arrested two weeks ago at a hostel in Rio de Janiero.
He was flown back to New Zealand on Saturday after being deported from Brazil.
Smith is “back where he should be, behind bars in a New Zealand prison”, police commissioner Mike Bush said.
“I hope Phillip Smith’s return to prison in New Zealand will bring some comfort to his victims, who have endured the trauma of knowing he was at large when he should not have been.”
Smith was sentenced to life in prison in 1996 for killing the father of a boy he had abused.
He made his getaway to South America three weeks ago when he was supposed to have been on a supervised three-day release.
Initial enquiries since his escape revealed Smith had obtained a passport under his birth name Phillip Traynor.
While on the run, Smith sent an email to Radio New Zealand saying he planned the escape by running a criminal check on his birth name and discovering that it had not been red-flagged.
He also said he had been able to fund the escape with money from various businesses he had run from prison.
According to New Zealand government welfare reports, he applied for and received NZ$26,700 ($21,000) in living costs from 2003-08 while getting a student loan.
He later claimed NZ$43,068 ($39,700) in tax credits and tax refunds.
Smith told Radio New Zealand he chose to flee to Brazil because if caught, it does not have a formal extradition treaty with New Zealand.
Deportation however is a more straightforward process and after being arrested he was ordered from the country for not revealing his criminal history on arrival.