Case 8: Graeme Burton (PART II)

WAINUIOMATA, WELLINGTON. On the afternoon of January the 6th 2007. Karl Kuchenbecker was riding his quad bike in the hills that connect Lower Hutt to Wainuiomata. Karl was riding through a firebreak on his way home. When he was confronted by a drug frenzied, overly aggressive man wielding a shotgun. The man fired. Karl was hit and he fell to the ground. The man fired the shotgun two more times hitting Kuchenbecker. 

Karl, with what strength he had left made a run for it. He was then grabbed and stabbed repeatedly. Puncturing his lung. Kuchenbecker lay dying, alone. As the man looked for more victims.

This random act of killing has chilling similarities to the 1992 murder of Paul Anderson. Both were a victim seemingly chosen at random, both were completely unprovoked, and both were committed by Graeme Burton.

Visit www.truecrimenz.com 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

“Bump in the Night”, “Day of Chaos”, “Fluidscape”, “Gathering Darkness”, “March of the Mind”, “Symmetry”
Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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

WAINUIOMATA, WELLINGTON. On the afternoon of January the 6th 2007. Karl Kuchenbecker was riding his quad bike in the hills that connect Lower Hutt to Wainuiomata. Karl was riding through a firebreak on his way home. When he was confronted by a drug frenzied, overly aggressive man wielding a shotgun. The man fired. Karl was hit and he fell to the ground. The man fired the shotgun two more times hitting Kuchenbecker. 

Karl, with what strength he had left made a run for it. He was then grabbed and stabbed repeatedly. Puncturing his lung. Kuchenbecker lay dying, alone. As the man looked for more victims.

This random act of killing has chilling similarities to the 1992 murder of Paul Anderson. Both were a victim seemingly chosen at random, both were completely unprovoked, and both were committed by Graeme Burton.

INTRODUCTION

In part one we spoke about Graeme Burton at length. We discussed his troubled upbringing, his history of drug abuse, his ability to take another’s life. We heard from people close to Burton who attempted to give us some insight into his mind. All of this built a world of a teen lost to drugs and a victim of his inability to connect with others in any meaningful way. Yet all that is conjecture when we haven’t heard from Graeme himself. 

In 2007 Graeme Burton wrote a letter to the Parole Board. The letter dated February 21st, 2007. Graeme describes his struggles upon his release in 2006, the letter was submitted to the Parole Board of Inquiry. The letter was in regards to the handling of his parole. This letter gives a first hand account of Burton’s thinking and situation leading up to the violence that transpired on the Wainuiomata hills. 

We will be reading an unedited version of this letter. A few things to keep in mind before we begin. This is Graeme’s account of what happened. The parole board refutes many claims Burton makes in this letter. I will also be reading the corrections staff responses when relevant to be fair to all parties. The letter will be read whole, although I will be intervening regularly to clarify points and fill in details. This is Graeme Burton in his own words.

GRAEME BURTON… IN HIS OWN WORDS

Fig 1. Graeme Burton

“My name is Graeme William Burton and this is my version of events relating to my release on parole. I was released on parole on July 10, 2006, after spending approximately 14 years in prison on a life sentence. I was looking forward to getting out and starting a new life. I intended this to go well. The New Zealand Parole Board set out a number of conditions that were part of my release on parole. One of the conditions was that I reside in a suburb in Wellington.” 

The other special conditions were as follows: 1. For the first month at least, Mr Burton’s mother will reside at the flat as part of his reintegration process. Any breach of this condition could result in his recall to the prison; 2. Do not leave the Wellington region without prior written approval of the Probation Officer; 3. Undertake employment or employment related training as directed by the Probation Officer but he will not engage in the tattoo business without the prior written approval of the Probation Officer; 4. Undertake a psychological assessment and any treatment recommended as a result of that assessment as directed by the Probation Officer; 5.  Attend any other counselling or programmes aimed at reducing his risk of reoffending in the community as directed by the Probation Officer; 6. Do not associate with any person nominated in writing by the Probation Officer; 7. Do not make contact with the Victim’s family, either directly or indirectly, unless with the prior written approval of the Probation Officer. 

“The flat was a one bedroom flat and part of a block of four flats. My flat was the bottom one. Access to the flat was difficult. My birth mother was required to live with me for the first month of my release. I had met my mother about 12 times while in prison.” [Graeme Burton’s adopted mother had died of cancer in 1999, 7 years earlier.] “It was okay living with her for about the first two weeks. When my mother arrived from Australia we went into an empty house. There was no furniture, no beds. She slept in a sleeping bag on the floor for the first three days. I slept on the floor with only a blanket; however, I didn’t sleep for the first three days. It was also the adrenaline rush of freedom that didn’t allow me to sleep.”

“It was July and freezing in the middle of winter and a cold snap at that time. We had no power for a week. I had no ID and couldn’t open a bank account for two weeks. I couldn’t cash my Steps to Freedom”. [Steps to Freedom is a $350 cheque you receive on release from prison]. My mother had to get the cheque changed into her name. I had no history with any bank and no credit rating with any power company. I didn’t exist. Finally I got a letter from my probation officer and convinced a bank branch that I needed an account and opened one. My mother had to open a power account for me. The sensory deprivation of 14 years jail made me have heightened in senses. Everything around me I noticed. I missed nothing. The colours were brighter. My mother took me around to the Salvation Army Hope Centre in Newtown. We saw a fella who said he’d sort stuff out and send around to the flat later. The furniture took a few days to arrive. My mother and me set up the flat. The Salvation Army donated the furniture. The bed that arrived was no good — the springs had gone and it wrecked my back. I was used to the prison hard beds.”

“In the first two weeks things went okay. Then we both started to feel holed up in the one-bedroom flat. We started getting at each other a little to begin with. I didn’t really know her to live with. She didn’t expect me to be so intense. She was quite relaxed. I was racing around town because I felt under immense pressure by Probation because I had all the probation and parole conditions to keep to. All this had to be done by Friday July 14, 2006. I met my probation officer on the second day at the probation office in Newtown. I couldn’t even get my Work and Income payment as I had no bank account. My mother gave me the money to start with, as I didn’t have any of my own at all. I was given a food voucher for $100 when I got out of prison but it had to be used on the day that I got out of jail and we didn’t have time to get the food. It expired at the end of the first day and so we had no food. We never got any other voucher to replace it.” 

[Burton’s probation officer response to these claims were as follows: the Rimutaka reintegration team had extensive involvement with Burton prior to him being released. The organisations involved in his reintegration were Housing NZ, Operation Jericho, Community Probation Service, Prisoners’ Aid and Rehabilitation Society, Salvation Army, Winz, and a local marae. From her perspective he had one of the best reintegration plans ever as he had housing, money, a course within a week of his being released from prison, family and support people].

“I was on the unemployment benefit to begin with, which was $160. This changed to a student allowance after a while. It was difficult to sort out the student allowance as my mother had gone by then. It was difficult to get an appointment at Study Link halfway through the year. I was at school at this time studying at the New Zealand Institute of Sport.”

“On the first day when I moved into the flat I said ‘‘hello’’ to my neighbour. He just grunted at me and slammed the door. The neighbour was crazy. He would bang on the w all whenever he heard the slightest noise in my flat. He’d just start banging. He’d hear us come home — we’d be really quiet not to disturb him at first. He banged at anytime. It could be 4am and he’d bang for hours. He really loved to do loud power kicks and punches at the wall. This scared my mother and my auntie when she came to visit, especially when they found out he went into another neighbour’s house and pulled a knife and threatened to kill them. I talked to one of the other neighbours and they had the same problems with the crazy man. The flat I was in was empty for the previous nine months because of this mad guy.”

“I told the probie about the mad neighbour and that he’d threaten to kill the other neighbour and about my concern for my mother’s safety. It was a high-risk situation as well as a highly confrontational situation. I asked the probation officer to move me every time I visited the probation office once a week. The probation officer tried to get me moved because of the bad access as I had problems with my leg. I had to get a medical certificate and couldn’t afford the $40 to see a doctor”. [The probation officer states that at no time did he tell her he could not afford a medical certificate.] When I knew my neighbour was like he was I started arming myself and preparing myself mentally for when he was going to stab me and a possible confrontation. This guy wouldn’t talk, wouldn’t communicate, he refused to. This did my head in, living next to a psycho. I got to a point where I’d had enough. He threatened to kill me.”

“The opportunity arose to get a Mossberg Maverick pump action shotgun for protection against him and former enemies. I said to the probie: ‘‘I’m going to kill my neighbour, he’s keeping me awake and I’m losing it. I want to go back to jail. Put me in jail until you can get me another house.’’ She said: ‘‘You don’t mean that.’’ I said: ‘‘I’m going to kill him.’’ I looked her straight in the eye and said ‘‘Yes I do.’’ She goes: ‘‘You’d have to be recalled to go back to jail and have to commit a crime to do so.’’ I said: ‘‘ Fuck that. It took me 14 years to get out the last time and will take 10 years to get out this time. I don’t want to commit a crime.’’ And she’d said: ‘‘You don’t mean that you’re doing well and being honest with me and expressing yourself and by telling me means you’re not going to do it.’’ She was all happy. I said: ‘‘Well then I may as well go hard on the crime. I quit the course I had been doing for two months. The probie said I had to get a job. The probie thought I was venting my frustrations and didn’t take me seriously. I had a pump action shotgun at this stage two months after my mother went home.”

[Graeme’s biological mother returned to Australia after her legally mandated month was over. The probation officer refutes all the statements in regards to Buron saying he was going to kill. She states that Burton never said this … ‘‘I’m going to kill my neighbour . . . put me back in jail” The probation officer also states that she knew he had concerns about the neighbour but that she was working with Housing New Zealand to have him relocated].

“I was getting no sleep because the crazy man would keep me awake. I was trapped in my flat. I couldn’t go out as Work and Income were taking money back for grants they gave me when I got out of jail. They said I owed $560. The probie sorted this out and I still ended up owing them money. After Work and Income took the money I was left with $69 a week for everything — bus fare to school, food, clothing, medical expenses and phone. I had to pay $200 in three weeks for medical expenses and I couldn’t survive on the $69 so I couldn’t pay the bills. If you can’t pay the bills there is no medical treatment. I was in pain. You have to pay on leaving so I couldn’t attend to my medical needs. I needed to be able bodied for my sports course. I decided I had to move before there was a violent confrontation with the neighbour. I had no money, couldn’t afford medical treatment, a debt to Work and Income and couldn’t live on the money I was getting. My mother was back in Australia and I felt total lack of support. My support people stopped talking to me because I missed a Sunday lunch. I didn’t remember the lunch.” [The probation officer refutes that Burton had no support available and says if he felt this way he never told her, although she admits he said he was very lonely]. The pressure got to me so I started using a kaleidoscope of drugs which I got for free because I knew everyone who knew me from jail and they wanted to stay on my good side. I started offending — taxing the criminals in the city establishing myself as the predominant gangster in the Wellington region” [It was now October. Burton has been released for 3 months. Burton was “taxing” the drug dealers around Wellington city by committing a series of armed assaults on them, robbing or extorting their money. Through informants police heard that Graeme was trying to start a drug empire and was using a lot of methamphetamine].

“During this time the police helicopter followed me for two days. I went with my workmates to collect money and the people attacked my workmates and then they called the police. The police pulled us up at Happy Valley Tip and arrested the driver of (our) car for not having a licence and arrested the other person for demanding with menaces. The charges got dropped.

I provided false details of name to police but the real date of birth when I was detained on the side of the road for two hours. A detective arrived and asked to speak to my associate and myself separately. The detective told me he knew what I’d been up to. He mentioned that I’d allegedly broken someone’s legs and been robbing and taxing drug dealers in the city. I said I didn’t know what he was talking about” 

[Burton’s associate was presumably Scott Elliot based on his own testimony in which he admitted his part in an aggravated robbery with Burton, where Elliot and Burton attacked a man in a Courtenay Place apartment building. Elliot supposedly said to a police officer during this confrontation “We’re doing you guys a favour… We’re getting rid of a lot of gear from the streets. You guys should thank us”]. 

“The detective pulled out a large file. I don’t know what it was but it was 11⁄ inches thick. I knew the police had surveillance on me. The detective said: ‘‘We want you to stop offending in our city— go and do another city, we don’t want the paperwork when you kill someone.’’ He said: ‘‘We have your enemies under surveillance as well and from [what] we hear they have already dug holes for you and your mate. This is a message from the head of the Organised Crime Unit in Wellington. Stop taxing the drug dealers now before someone is killed and we won’t raid your house next week, we’d leave you alone.’’ I said: ‘‘I don’t know what you’re talking about considering what you seem to know. I’ll give you my assurances that I will not commit more offences if I was in the first place, but don’t tell my probie. I don’t want my parole conditions to get tougher.’’ 

“The police breached the deal by raiding my house in Kingston the next week when they said they wouldn’t. The police told the probation officer. Nothing was found at my house. Once this happened I went to the probation officer the next week. I sensed a trap from the tone of the probie’s voice. She was hot on it because I’d been raided for an alleged aggravated robbery. I hadn’t been staying at the house but the probie wasn’t aware of it. I hadn’t been in the house for a month”. [This was a breach of Burton’s parole conditions]. I’d stay for three to four hours a time during the week when I was in the area. The probation officer said no one would sign an affidavit against me. I knew I was on shaky ground as the police were pressuring potential witnesses to sign an affidavit if they got busted for themselves” [The probation officer says she said nothing about police pressuring witnesses].

“Soon after this I went into hiding. I was acquiring a store of weapons for a final shootout with the police, as I didn’t want to return to jail. The parole system makes it so hard to get out in the first place. I knew it [would] take 10 years to get out again and I’d rather be dead than go back to jail for that long. I acquired a store of weapons that kept growing, as I’d take them off other criminals just because I could. I got a [series] of safe houses to stay under false names through someone else, ending in the one in Tory St above the Lone Star Restaurant. My contact with the probation officer was over. I was on the run with no dole, living on crime waiting for a big score to get enough money to get out of the country. It was difficult, as border controls are tight. I knew if I didn’t make enough money quickly I’d die at the hands of the police if I wasn’t got by my enemies first. I felt fully hunted under immense pressure determined never to go back to jail alive as I knew the lag would be huge. It would be so difficult to get out again if I ever finished the lag. In my mind I thought I was the good guy by doing society a favour shutting down all the drug dealers in the city. But when I shot the innocent people I realised I was the bad guy and I had to be shot quickly”.

THE SHOOTINGS IN THE WAINUIOMATA HILLS

Fig 2. Karl Kuchenbecker

We will be coming back to Graeme’s letter later, but for now we have to revisit the incident on the Wainuiomata hills on January the 6th 2007 from a more objective point of view. What exactly happened up on those hills? With the help of the Independent Police Conduct Authority or IPCA we have a detailed report of the shooting of Graeme Burton.

As a result of the police search, Graeme Burton had been dropped off by an associate early Saturday afternoon on January the 6th 2007 to hide in a network of fire-breaks between Lower Hutt and Wainuiomata, in order to evade police. He had with him a loaded, sawn-off, pump-action Maverick shotgun, a loaded Smith & Wesson revolver, a large hunting knife strapped to his leg, a folding knife and an ASP extendable baton identical to that used by police. He was also wearing a Kevlar stab and shrapnel resistant vest. The Maverick shotgun had been modified: It was capable of holding five shotgun cartridges, each of which contained nine lead pellets of approximately 9mm in diameter. Each pellet had the potential to inflict fatal injury. 

At approximately 3.30pm, Karl Kuchenbecker (26) left his home in Wainuiomata on his quad bike. Karl, a farmer who was described as a loving father of two, rode the main fire-break that runs along the top of the hills between Wainuiomata and the Hutt Valley. He was expected back at 5.30pm.

About 5pm Burton was seen at the top of the Te Whiti fire-break. Shortly after this sighting, Karl Kuchenbecker encountered Burton on the main fire-break track. Kuchenbecker was wearing typical motorcycle clothing and a full-face crash helmet. As Kuchenbecker rounded a corner on his bike he was confronted by Burton brandishing his loaded shotgun. Burton fired one round from the shotgun at Kuchenbecker causing him to fall from his bike. As Karl lay on the ground Burton fired two further shots at him at very close range. The shotgun blast struck Kuchenbecker’s right hand, and his left palm and forearm, causing injuries consistent with Kuchenbecker trying to defend himself against Burton’s attack. The injuries indicate Burton was firing at point blank range. Despite this, Kuchenbecker managed to get to his feet. Burton then took a large hunting knife and stabbed Kuchenbecker a number of times. A deep penetrating wound punctured his right lung, causing him to fall to the ground. As he lay on his back, unable to defend himself, Burton stabbed him in the upper centre of his chest. This wound was inflicted with such force that the knife passed through Kuchenbecker’s chest cavity and again punctured his right lung before penetrating his spine. The pathologist concluded that this wound was the last and ultimately led to Kuchenbecker’s death. Graeme later described the stabbing as what “a hunter would do to put a wounded animal out of its misery”. 

Fig 3. Wainuiomata pictured in background. This is where the moutain bikers came up from.

It was approximately 5.20pm. Within minutes, two mountain bikers, Jeremy Alan Simpson (34) and Karl Steven Holmes (33), came round a corner of the track leading to the scene of Kuchenbecker’s murder. As Simpson rounded the corner, with Holmes a few metres further back, he came across Burton standing over the quad bike. Simpson glanced sideways at Burton as he rode past him and noticed Burton had a firearm strapped across his back. Nothing was said but he recognised Burton as the man described in recent media stories who was wanted by police. Simpson then saw Karl Kuchenbecker’s motionless body a short distance further along the track.

Karl Holmes, who was riding behind Simpson, saw Burton remove the shotgun from across his back and take aim at Simpson. Realising he was about to be shot, Simpson accelerated, attempting to round a corner on the track to get out of the line of fire. The mountain biker was approximately 20 metres from Burton when he fired. The pellets from the shotgun blast struck Simpson in the left elbow but he managed to continue round the corner before falling from his bike to the ground, unable to use his left arm. Holmes reached Burton at the precise moment that Burton fired shooting his friend. Holmes heard Burton work the action of the shotgun to reload it as he went on past. Believing that he was also about to be shot, and fearing for his life, he rode as fast as he could. Burton fired his shotgun again, striking Holmes in the left arm and left side. Holmes also was approximately 20 metres from Burton when he was shot.

As Simpson and Holmes were fleeing, two further mountain bikers were on the track approaching Burton. Nicholas Rea (50) and his daughter Kate Rea (18), had come from Wainuiomata Hill, the same direction as Simpson and Holmes, having been overtaken by the two men only a few minutes before. Nicholas and Kate Rea rounded a corner and came across Burton attempting to start the quad bike. He had turned it around so it was facing downhill in an apparent attempt to pursue Simpson and Holmes. 

As Nicholas Rea passed Burton he saw Karl Kuchenbecker lying motionless on the side of the track, about 20 metres in front of him. He stopped beside Kuchenbecker’s body with the intent to administer first aid. Kate Rea stopped on the track halfway between Burton and where Kuchenbecker lay. Nicholas Rea asked Burton what happened. Burton replied, “There has been an accident.” Nicholas Rea pulled out his cell phone to call emergency services but Burton went up to him, said, “No cell phones,” and punched him in the face. Burton then told him, with some menace, that he had a knife and produced the hunting knife he had used to murder Kuchenbecker. Fearing for his daughter’s life and also for his own, Nicholas Rea handed his cell phone to Burton who threw it into the surrounding bush. Burton then ordered Nicholas Rea to start the quad bike. Nicholas Rea said he knew nothing about quad bikes and did not know how to start it, to which Burton responded, “Your life depends on it.” Still afraid of what Burton would do, Nicholas Rea got onto the quad bike to try and start it. Meanwhile, Burton ordered Kate Rea to hand over her cell phone. She said she didn’t have one and gave him her backpack. He then demanded Nicholas Rea’s backpack and placed both inside his own bag.

Fig 4. View from the top of Wainuiomata Hill

Burton told the Reas that he had a gun and took out his sawn-off shotgun from his carry bag. He was holding it, pointing it in the general direction of the Reas, when it discharged, firing a round into the ground about three metres in front of Kate Rea. Several of the shotgun pellets ricocheted off the ground, striking her. Burton immediately apologised, saying it was an accident and that he had failed to apply the safety catch. While Nicholas Rea continued his attempts to start the quad bike, without success, Burton remained aggressive and intimidating, warning him that “it looks as though someone has already died; we had better make sure it doesn’t happen to anybody else”.

Eventually Nicholas Rea told Burton he could not start the bike. Burton got him to remove the bike leads in order to disable it and to throw his daughter’s mountain bike into the bush, which he did. Burton then took Nicholas Rea’s mountain bike and rode north along the track in the same direction Simpson and Holmes had gone. Nicholas and Kate Rea, terrified, ran in the opposite direction to find help. They reached Wainuiomata Road about 3.1 kilometres away where they managed to flag down a motorist who contacted emergency services.

As Burton was confronting the Reas, Simpson and Holmes were still making their way along the fire-break towards the Summit Road access point. As they ran, Holmes dialled 111 and contacted the ambulance service. That call was made at 5.28pm. After obtaining some basic information, Holmes was told to hang up so police could call him directly. The ambulance dispatcher then called police communications (Comms) and provided police with Holmes’ cell phone number. The Comms dispatcher then called Lower Hutt area commander Inspector Bruce Dunstan at 5.35pm and provided him with brief details of the event. 

Shortly after 5.35pm, Two officers, who we will refer to as Officer A and B for clarity, were instructed to go to Summit Road in Lower Hutt to meet with the two shooting victims. There were very few details available but he told the officers that two mountain bikers were making their way down from the foothills, where they had been shot by a man fitting the description of Burton. Both officers departed wearing body armour and carrying fully loaded Glock Pistols and with two Bushmaster Rifles in a secure cabinet in the boot of their patrol car.  

Fig 5. The track Burton rode down on the moutain bike.

Back on Wainuiomata hill, Holmes and Simpson looked back along the winding track and could see Burton some 200 metres away, heading towards them on a mountain bike. Realising they could not out-run the cycling Burton and still believing their lives in danger, they leapt 30 metres down a steep bank at the side of the track, crashing through the undergrowth, and hid amongst some gorse bushes. Not wanting to let Burton know where they were, Holmes turned his cell phone onto ‘silent’ so Burton could not hear it ringing when police called back. They watched as he rode down the Summit Road fire-break, past them and out of sight. They were then contacted by police. Holmes told them that the person who had shot him was “the guy police have been looking for”. He described the gun as a pump-action shotgun and said he had seen another person on the track who looked dead. That call was logged at 5.43pm. 

Just after 5.47pm, the two officers arrived in Summit Road and parked at the end of the road, the start of the fire-break trails. From police radio traffic they learned that the shooting incidents being relayed by emergency services to police Comms in all likelihood involved Graeme Burton. Comms also told them that the two injured men were hiding in the bush near the top of the track, too afraid to come down to meet them. The Reas’ first calls were received by police at 5.48pm. Kate Rea told them of being confronted by an armed man, whilst another man was on the ground covered in blood.

Officer A reassessed his options. He decided to establish a cordon and called Comms and asked them to send uniformed police to the other exit points of the Wainuiomata hills to set up additional cordon points. As the latest emergency calls were coming from Wainuiomata he thought Burton might now be heading towards Stokes Valley, the other direction, towards them. He told Officer B that the circumstances had changed and they would get the Bushmasters out and loaded and move the patrol car out of sight. They would then hide up in the bush on either side of the gates to the fire-break trail.  

What happened next took place in quick succession. Officer A was at the rear of the car with the boot open, stooped over trying to attach an ammunition holder to the duty belt of Officer B. Officer B was standing upright beside the car on the driver’s side, facing toward the boot and watching Officer A. When he heard the sound of a bicycle coming to a halt at the Summit Road gateway about 10 metres away. Officer B looked up and saw Burton approaching the gate from the fire-break side. Drawing his Glock pistol, he took aim at Burton and shouted, “Stop, armed police.” As he raised his pistol, Burton raised his shotgun and levelled it at the officer. Officer B said he had a clear view of Graeme Burton: “As he raised the shotgun, Burton smirked at me. He was looking directly at me, as he had been since I first saw him. …I thought he was going to kill me.” 

Believing that Burton was about to shoot, Officer B readied to fire when Officer A grabbed his shoulder and told him to run. Given their exposed position, threatened with superior firepower and with their own rifles unloaded and still in the boot of the patrol car, this was the only feasible response. The two officers retreated at speed down Summit Road for approximately 50 metres until they were out of Burton’s direct line of fire. 

Once they realised Burton was not following, they took cover and radioed for assistance. They then reassessed their situation. They were in a residential area, as well as the two shooting victims in the fire-breaks, they knew there would be other members of the public in the general area. Officer A then made decisions at this point, based on his fear that Burton was about to take possession of the police’s Bushmaster rifles and ammunition as well. He decided to go forward, challenge Burton, stop him taking the police rifles, force him to surrender, detain and arrest him.

Fig 6. Where Burton and the police meet at the Summit Road access.

Officer A moved up the roadway towards Burton using the roadside bush for cover. He was followed at a short distance by Officer B. Both had drawn their Glock pistols. As they approached the patrol car they saw Burton standing next to the boot holding the two Bushmaster rifles. Office A shouted, “Armed police.” Burton turned to face him, the Bushmaster rifles in his left hand and his loaded shotgun in his right. He raised and pointed the shotgun directly at Officer A. The officer estimated he was about 30 metres from Burton with no obstructions between them. He fired at Burton who stepped sideways as the rear window of the patrol car shattered. Burton did not drop his weapon or surrender. Officer A then fired twice in close succession, one of the shots striking Burton in the upper thigh of his right leg and incapacitating him. Burton dropped his weapons and fell to the ground. 

The two officers approached Burton and placed him under arrest. While they were attempting to restrain him and assess his medical condition Burton continued to struggle against them. The sawn off shotgun he had been carrying was found to be fully loaded. So was his revolver. The time was 6pm. This whole incident took about 40 minutes.

Now that we have a detailed timeline about the shootings. Let’s continue with Graeme Burton as he describes in his letter the same incident on the Wainuiomata hills, the way he remembers it going down. 

“When I shot the innocent people I realised I was the bad guy and I had to be shot quickly. So I ceased to hide and went out and sought the police out where I knew they’d be at the end of the firebreak. I [saw] the police and thought ‘‘it’s over’’, I was happy. I ran at them smiling thinking, ‘‘its over, thank god its over’’. The police shot me and I was hit in the artery in my leg. I thought I’d bleed out. I surrendered as I thought death was certain. Unfortunately that was not the case much to my disgust, as I wanted to be killed. I was gutted I wasn’t killed.

AFTERMATH OF THE SHOOTINGS

As a result of the injury Burton received to his leg. It had to be subsequently amputated. Graeme Burton pleaded guilty to 11 charges relating to the events of 6 January. The charges were one of murder, two of attempted murder, two of aggravated robbery, two of kidnapping, two of using a firearm against a law enforcement officer, aggravated injury and injuring with reckless disregard. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a non-parole period of 26 years for the murder. For the other charges he was sentenced to preventive detention with a non-parole period of 26 years.

In December 2008, Burton was involved in a violent incident, this time in Auckland’s maximum security Paremoremo Prison, at the time New Zealand’s only maximum security facility. He stabbed Headhunters gang member Dwayne Marsh through the heart and in the shoulders, arms and legs with a sharpened steel rod. Marsh was rushed to Auckland Hospital’s emergency department by ambulance and placed in the Intensive Care Unit, he survived his injuries. Burton was charged with attempted murder for this incident.

Fig 7. CCTV footage of the Dwayne Marsh stabbing.

Almost ten years later, in May 2018, Graeme Burton was the person being assaulted at Paremoremo Prison. He was stabbed by another inmate. Corrections said that his condition was not life threatening. Adding the police and the corrections department will be carrying out investigations. He also revealed that the prisoners involved with this incident are gang affiliated. 

In the aftermath of the Graeme Burton shootings an urgent debate was called in Parliament. Opposition and National party leader John Key shouted across the table, “New Zealanders deserve to know that when people are released on parole there is a good reason why they are released, and they deserve to know that if people violate their parole, something will happen and they will be recalled, New Zealanders are pretty darned confused now. They do not know what zero tolerance means under a Labour government.” 

In October 2007, the Parole Amendment Act came into force, incorporating changes that addressed issues raised by the Burton incident, and making it even more difficult for prisoners to get out. 

In October 2008, a month before the General Election, Key announced the National Party would abolish parole for some violent repeat offenders like Burton under its proposed ‘life means life’ policy. A month later John Key became prime minister. Between 2008 and 2010 the prison population crept up 8 percent.

In the succeeding years the prison population continued steadily increasing due to more changes to the Bail Act, making it harder to be paroled. In 2017, The Sensible Sentencing Trust or SST, who are a victim advocacy group. Still unsatisfied at the state of New Zealand’s parole laws said “We can only hope that the Minister of Justice stands up and implements serious changes needed to keep the greater New Zealand public safe and starts to hear and give the victims of serious crime a louder voice within the parole system. Now is the time for that change. Let us as a nation take our stand by showing respect to the memory and lives of both Karl Kuchenbecker and Paul Anderson by saying, enough is enough. If this Nation is ever to get on top of its high crime/prison problem we need to have a very hard look at the contributing factors. The break down in traditional families, drugs and alcohol are common factors in most crimes but there seemed to be very little political will to face these issues.” One of SST’s goals is to abolish parole entirely for violent offenders. 

In 2018, it was predicted the prison population is forecast to increase to more than 13,400 in the next 10 years. If this forecast turns out to be correct, a new prison will be needed every two to three years. The average cost of housing a prisoner is $100,000 a year:

https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12090017

CONCLUSION

Graeme Burton’s letter in 2007 concludes with his feelings on why his situation lead him down the road he took and how he believes the parole board failed him.

“I felt like I could get away with my offending because there were no checks and balances, no measures put in place by the Corrections Department. I had no real reintegration and rehabilitation in the community before I was paroled. I had three escorted outings with prison officers each of six hours before I was paroled. I don’t feel it was the Parole Board letting me out that was the mistake as without hope of parole I [would] have run rampant in jail.”

“When I was released initially I was fully intent upon going straight but was unprepared for living in the community after 14 years of my life in prison. I notice the police want more say in refusing parole yet they never checked up on me at all [once] I was out in the community until it was far too late. I already begged my probie that I wanted to go back to jail and was ready to start offending, but didn’t want to.”

“It is not my initial release that the community should be worried about but the lack of support and monitoring once I was out that led to such a tragedy. I don’t think it would be fair or just to refuse men who are not me and are probably nothing like me a chance to redeem themselves on parole, so that the police can expand their powers when they had ample opportunity to put me back before the tragedy had they done their jobs properly.

SOURCES

Articles
Scoop Politics, Ten Years After Karl Kuchenbecker’s Murder, http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO1701/S00008/ten-years-after-karl-kuchenbeckers-murder.htm
Stuff.co.nz, Teen killer’s mum tells of her dark past with murderer Graeme Burton, https://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/79083717/teen-killers-mum-tells-of-her-dark-past-with-murderer-graeme-burton
NZ Herald, Judge says Burton was not ‘bad’ but drugs to blame, https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10419035
Newshub, Burton’s 1998 prison escape led to intense police manhunt, https://www.newshub.co.nz/nznews/burtons-1998-prison-escape-led-to-intense-police-manhunt-2007010516
Wikipedia, Graeme Burton, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graeme_Burton
NZ Herald, The freedom gamble, https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10418894
Stuff.co.nz, 20 Years of ‘tough on crime’ stance sees prison population surge, https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/103795593/the-impact-of-two-decades-of-being-tough-on-crime
Stuff.co.nz, Kiwi drug accused Scott Elliott speaks of ‘dreadful situation’ in Ecuadorian jail, https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/78431860/kiwi-drug-accused-scott-elliott-speaks-of-dreadful-situation-in-ecuadorian-jail
Brooking Blog, Graeme Burton – untreated drug addict set up to fail, https://brookingblog.com/2011/12/10/graeme-burton-just-another-untreated-drug-addict/
NZ Herald, Crime and Punishment: Will freeing more prisoners work?, https://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=12090017

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