Case 8: Graeme Burton (PART I)

LOWER HUTT, WELLINGTON. In 1992, Paul Anderson was a lighting technician at Wellington nightclub, The Carpark. After hearing some commotion with a man and the club’s security. Anderson found himself confronted by a large, enraged and intoxicated man. The man was also weilding a knife. The man asked Anderson if he worked at the club. Anderson supposedly confirmed this and the knife was put to use, Paul was viciously stabbed and he collapsed. Later bleeding out.

Visit for additional information on this case. Including a transcript of this episode, with supporting pictures, sources, and credits.

Hosted by Jessica Rust
Written and edited by Sirius Rust

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The podcast version is the intended way to consume this story but we make a transcript available for those that would rather read instead. This can be found below.

In 1992, Paul Anderson was a lighting technician at Wellington nightclub, The Carpark. After hearing some commotion with a man and the club’s security. Anderson found himself confronted by a large, enraged and intoxicated man. The man was also weilding a knife. The man asked Anderson if he worked at the club. Anderson supposedly confirmed this and the knife was put to use, Paul was viciously stabbed and he collapsed. Later bleeding out.


Graeme Burton was born in 1971 in Lower Hutt. As a baby, Burton’s biological mother put him up for adoption. He was then adopted by an older couple and they raised him in Waterloo, a suburb of Lower Hutt. News reports quoting people who knew Burton and his family painted a picture of him as an artistic and polite child. 

Issues began in 1973, when Burton’s adopted father passed away when he was only two years old. This left only his adopted mother to raise him. Something she seemed to struggle with. Her frustrations were commonly taken out on a young Graeme. He was the subject of scathing criticism from his adopted mother and her consistent put downs drove further exacerbated the divide between them. When Graeme misbehaved, she would additionally add that he must remember that being adopted means, she can return him at her own discretion.

At 15, with little affection or attachment to his adopted mother, Graeme started using drugs. He was fond of cannabis and LSD but what Burton really had a taste for was benzodiazepines. Benzodiazepines or more commonly known as Benzos are a type of medication known as tranquilizers. Familiar names include Valium, Xanax and most commonly in New Zealand Diazepam

Benzodiazepines act on the central nervous system, produce sedation and muscle relaxation, and lower anxiety levels. These are most commonly given for anxiety, insomnia and seizure control. When non-prescription users obtain and use Benzos for their sedation effects, they frequently start abusing them. Graeme Burton was one of these people and by his 17th birthday he was abusing benzos on a daily basis.

Kelly Kirk was only 15 years old when she began dating Burton. He was 21. Kirk described the relationship in the beginning as ‘okay’ but said Burton quickly turned and started treating her cruelly. Kirk reminisced about her time with Burton in a 2016 interview with

She added later added in the interview “There was a time, early on, when it was seductive being a bad girl running with bad boys”. Burton’s bad boy streak extended to beating and physically abusing Kirk, she claimed that at the time she thought his violence toward her was really evidence that he loved her. Although, she later described Burton in 2016 as a psychopath. “They say psychopaths, they imitate emotions, and that is so accurate to him. Like, he doesn’t know how to portray emotions, so he imitates what he sees around him. It’s hard to explain, because sometimes he doesn’t quite hit it. His reactions will be strange. I always knew he was going to murder someone. He actually said to me that he knew he was going to kill”. She added that violence was what kept her by his side.

By this time, Graeme Burton’s drug addiction was intensifying. He had turned to crime to fuel this habit. Burton would commit burglaries to obtain money for drugs. When this wasn’t fruitful enough, Graeme would break into chemists directly in search of benzodiazepines to satiate his dependance. By 1992, Graeme was 21 and had 91 convictions for property theft, fraud and other drug-related crimes. 


The same year, Graeme Burton and Kelly Kirk still only 15 decided they wanted to spend a night out on the town in Wellington city. On a destructive cocktail of drugs consisting of benzodiazepines, alcohol and 4 other drugs Burton and Kirk arrived at the Carpark, a heavy metal club on Willis Street

After entering the club, Burton’s behaviour grew increasingly strange. Culminating in an incident where he urinated on the club’s floor. This drew attention from the club’s security that promptly attempted to remove Burton. After an ensuing struggle. Burton was then seen asking the club’s lighting technician, Paul Anderson if he worked there. After confirming his employee status. Burton took out a 10cm knife and savagely stabbed Anderson with such force he was lifted from the ground. He then subsequently fell to the floor near a landing of stairs. Anderson lay bleeding out on the Carpark floor and later died

The police were called and Burton was promptly arrested. Graeme Burton was found guilty of Murder in 1992. He was sentenced to life imprisonment without possibility of parole for ten years. Making him eligible for probation in May of 2002.

Kelly Kirk and Burton continued their relationship for one year into his sentence. When Kirk went to the visitors centre at the Rimutaka Prison in Upper Hutt to let Burton know she was ending the relationship. Burton exploded in rage. The glass barrier separating them barely containing him. She summed up the experience as such “He attacked me, I told him that was it”

While police had stopped Burton from being able to write to Kirk while he was in prison. He could still get his prison visitors to put threatening letters in the mailbox. The last time Kelly Kirk heard from Burton was shortly before June 1998. She received a letter in her letterbox that read “I’m coming for you, revenge will be sweet”.


On the 15th June 1998,   four prisoners fled from Auckland Prison, Graeme Burton was among them. After escaping the prison the inmates buried themselves in a decaying bush. This stopped their heat signatures being detected by the infrared heat-seeking camera on the searching police helicopter.

The prisoners were able to slip away undetected and somehow made their way out of Auckland and to the coromandel coast. Houses were found burgled in Tairua and police assessed that this was the work of the escapees. Burton and the other prisoners were thought to be armed with at least a shotgun and .303 calibre rifle based on discarded ammunition found at one of the burgled properties.

Roadblocks were set up around Tairua and armed police stopped every car. The search area covered about 8km of Coromandel coast and inland west of the Tairua township, much of it thick bush. This was one of New Zealand’s most intense manhunts involving more than 100 armed police searchers, including members of the police special tactics group carrying sub machine guns, semi-automatic rifles and pistols. Police searched the Coromandel Peninsula on foot, by sea and by air. 

On June 25th 1998, 10 days after the escapees fled the prison. Police spotted a man sitting with his back against a tree. His head was slumped over resting on his knees. This man was one of the escapees, exhausted from 10 days on the run. Problem was, he was alone. The three other men including Burton where still free. The man later said from his prison cell that the escaped trio was armed and would not surrender without a gunfight and were prepared to die. Concluding with “they will hold out to the last”. 

Three days later on June 28th. Police spotted a broken security light in a luxury holiday home in Tairua. This tipped the police off as they had already searched the property a few days earlier. Armed police searched the home again and found Burton and the other two escapees. They surrendered and came with the police without a fight. The escapers later claimed to be ‘shit scared’ of the armed police. Graeme Burton was given an additional 3 years for the escape and associated crimes. The earliest Burton could now get paroled was May 2005.


Kelly Kirk and her young daughters were rushed away for their own safety during the 13 days Burton was free. Unfortunately this was not the end of tragedy and violence in Kirk’s life. By 1998, Kirk had developed a heavy morphine habit. The month after Burton’s escape in July of 1998, Kelly and her boyfriend Adam Little got ‘doped up’ in their lounge with a young girl, Erana Hickmott. The young woman slipped into unconsciousness while Kirk and Little ate KFC. 

Kirk stopped to smoke a cigarette on her way to drop the unconscious girl off at Hutt Hospital, where she subsequently died days later. Two jury trials did not convict Kirk or her boyfriend Adam Little, after arguments over whether it was the injection Kirk and Little gave the victim that killed her, or whether it was the cocktail of drugs she had been taking in the days before her death.

In that same 2016 interview with Kirk, she looks back on that time “I really feel for Erana’s family, especially her mother and father and her young daughter … she was a young girl at the time and she’s grown up without her beautiful mother, and I do feel a lot of guilt about that.”

In 2015, Kelly Kirk was involved with another violent incident in Taita, a suburb of Lower Hutt. Kirk was now in a relationship with a man named Adam Watkins. Watkins was described by Kirk as “He was a bit of a larrikin, you know, a bit of a Jack the lad, he was funny. He could be a very loving partner … He was very proud of our son”. Yet, he was described by others as a man with a history of domestic violence, a fondness of smoking meth and would become incensed for seemingly no reason afterwards. He would then direct that anger at the women in the house, usually Kelly Kirk or her 19 year old daughter Daryl Kirk.

On the 5th of February, Adam Watkins had smoked methamphetamine and has having a violent episode. Watkins was acting erratically and was swinging a clever around the house. He then went outside and plunged the clever into a car’s windscreen. Daryl Kirk, saying she was fearing for her life picked up a .22 Mossberg semi-automatic rifle that Daryl’s partner kept in the house for protection from the local gangs. She pointed at Watkins and fired. She said she fired only once, or maybe twice, but in fact she shot six times. Two hit Watkins directly and a third ricocheted off a door frame and struck Watkins in the back as he fled to the driveway. Bleeding out in the driveway Kelly Kirk comforted her dying partner. Kelly spoke about that incident in 2016 “I saw the amount of the blood he was losing and I knew he didn’t have long, so I just held his face and told him I loved him and that his son loved him. I said to him, ‘I don’t regret a minute of our time together.’ He told me he loved me, he told me that he wanted his mother, and just after that he said, ‘I’m going now, Kelly. I’m going,’ and then he drifted”. 

This is Kirk in 2016 speaking about how she holds some responsibility for Watkins death:

Daryl Kirk was found guilty of manslaughter in June of 2016. At sentencing, Crown prosecutor Seamus Woods said a jail term of at least seven years was appropriate. Adding no psychological conditions contributed to Daryl’s state of mind before she killed Watkins, and there was an element of premeditation in the shooting. He also accused her of demonstrating “limited, if any, display of genuine remorse”. At Kirk’s sentencing Adam Watkin’s sister Rachel Watkins read a victim impact statement:

Then the Judge handed down Daryl Kirk’s sentence:

During her daughter’s trial, Kelly Kirk said she wants a different life for herself and her loved ones. She had achieved the lowest dose of methadone since starting the drug treatment programme at 18. Saying “I think now’s the time. I mean, I turned 40 last month, and I thought, ‘Jeez, I don’t want to be in this place in another 20 years’. The majority of the bad choices I’ve made I wasn’t in the right frame of mind when I made them.”


Graeme Burton continued to use drugs many years into his prison sentence. Failing many drug tests while serving his time. Burton attended a rehabilitation programme targeting his propensity for violence but was not required to attend treatment for his drug addiction. Numerous psychologists and psychiatrists who interviewed him pointed out that his addiction had not been addressed and recommended alcohol and drug assessment and treatment. The Corrections Department refused to provide one. Despite this Burton seemingly got clean in 2003. As Burton would be eligible to be paroled soon, in May of 2005. 

Nick Lascelles, a clinical psychologist contracted to the Corrections Department psychological services, was asked to assess Burton’s risk of reoffending for the Parole Board. He discovered allegations that Burton had assaulted three other inmates and had offered $8000 to another prisoner to do “a hit” on a guard. A variety of clinical assessment tools found Burton had a moderate to high risk of reoffending. Previously his risk had been assessed as “very high”. Although he also thought that Burton had shown some apparent improvement as he maintained a pleasant demeanour in his interviews with Lascelles and showed some insight into ways of managing his anger. 

He flagged these matters in his report to the board. He offered two scenarios and conclusions on Burton’s risk with the ultimate assessment depending on whether the allegations of violence were true. Concluding with “given those allegations I did not support Mr Burton being released”.

Katrina Casey, the Corrections Department’s general manager of community probation and psychological services, told the court in 2007 that information about the allegations against Burton was not in the report given to the Parole Board, and should have been. She explained a prison manager had given information to Lascelles and expected the board would seek more information from jail staff, but this was an incorrect approach “The information should have been put in front of the board”.

In March of 2006, the only barrier that stood between Burton and freedom was the lack of a recent psychological assessment. The parole board proposed to release him three months later providing he had been assessed by a psychologist who had addressed “Mr Burton’s current risk to the safety of the community”. 

On June 28 2006, the board ordered Burton’s release. The psychological assessment had been done, which concluded “Mr Burton’s documented improvement in conduct and release plan supports a case for a carefully managed release under close supervision.” The decision to parole Burton was made despite the failure to meet the board’s request that he be eased back into the community by a process of home leaves. 

Home leaves is temporary release to “assist in the prisoner’s rehabilitation and their successful return to the community, such as learning practical living skills in the community”. The psychological assessment made references to allegations of Burton committing violence in prison but acknowledged these were unsubstantiated and there was no documentation to validate those claims. This is possible that this is referencing the same violent incidents Nick Lascelles made reference to in his report.


On the 10th of July 2006. Graeme Burton was released from prison. He served 14 years of his life sentence for the murder of Paul Anderson. Graeme Burton was now a free man. A free man such as any of us in this society. Free to use independent judgement. The freedom to make choices on what he thought would be positive contributions to the community.  The freedom to kill again.

— END OF PART I (1/2)


Scoop Politics, Ten Years After Karl Kuchenbecker’s Murder,, Teen killer’s mum tells of her dark past with murderer Graeme Burton,
NZ Herald, Judge says Burton was not ‘bad’ but drugs to blame,
Newshub, Burton’s 1998 prison escape led to intense police manhunt,
Wikipedia, Graeme Burton,
NZ Herald, The freedom gamble,, Home detention for Daryl Kirk who killed Adam Watkins after ‘frenetic confrontation’,

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