CCTV footage shows Phillip John Smith passing through Auckland Airport. Photo / NZ Police
CCTV footage shows Phillip John Smith passing through Auckland Airport. Photo / NZ Police

Phillip Smith caught on CCTV at Auckland Airport

POLICE have released images from CCTV footage of Phillip John Smith as he passed through Auckland Airport on Thursday.  

Police said this afternoon their investigation was now focused on Brazil, believed to be the fugitive's last destination after he fled New Zealand on Thursday while on temporary release from Springhill Prison.  

Smith boarded a flight to Chile and was believed to have transferred in Santiago to a flight to Brazil on Saturday.

The Washington-based New Zealand police liaison officer was travelling to Brazil to act as a direct point of contact on the ground and liaise with local law enforcement authorities.  

Police were also liaising with Brazilian authorities through Interpol, and working with relevant staff from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.  

"This is a priority investigation and all necessary resources are being directed to it," Police Commissioner Mike Bush said this afternoon.  

"A multi-agency team will be co-ordinated from the National Command and Co-ordination Centre at Police National Headquarters to provide the oversight needed for this international man hunt."  

An arrest warrant has been issued for Smith and Interpol alerts were in place for his known names. That would allow authorities in South America and beyond to inform New Zealand authorities if he tried to cross borders there.   "

The public can be assured that we will pursue all available avenues to locate Smith and return him to New Zealand. He needs to be held to account for his actions, particularly the distress that he has caused to his victims." Mr Bush said.   Assistant Commissioner Malcolm Burgess said the Auckland-based inquiry team was working through a range of avenues.  

"We've said Mr Smith is a calculated, intelligent individual who has clearly been planning his absconding for some time. The team is working to build a detailed picture of how he did this.  

"Detectives are talking to a number of people with relevant information. This includes the two persons who uplifted him from the prison as well as a number of witnesses who Smith may have interacted with prior to leaving the country.  

Mr Burgess said it was too early to speculate about charges in relation to anyone who may have assisted Smith, but police were gathering all the information needed on decisions on charges.  

"We are also liaising with relevant agencies including the Department of Corrections, Department of Internal Affairs, New Zealand Customs Service and the Ministry of Justice.  

"Ten detectives are working on the inquiry and they are very focused on their task," Mr Burgess said.  

Police also released an image from CCTV footage of Smith as he passed through Auckland Airport on Thursday.  

"We know Mr Smith is adept at changing his appearance and it is quite possible that he looks different now. If anyone has information which might help police, then I would urge them to contact us," Mr Burgess said.  

Killer fled with more than $10,000 in cash

Smith fled New Zealand with $10,215. in cash, which he declared at Customs.  

It is not illegal to travel with large sums of cash, but any amount over $10,000 must be declared at the border.  

A source said he appeared to be trying to show airport officials he was a "good guy" by showing honesty and declaring the money.  

Passport cancelled

The Government has cancelled Smith's passport, blocking him from leaving Brazil.  

Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne confirmed this afternoon that his department had used powers under the Passport Act to recall Smith's passport, which was under his birth name, Traynor.  

Mr Dunne said this meant "for all practical purposes" the passport was no longer a valid travel document.  

"This recall allows the New Zealand authorities to formally advise international policing agencies that Phillip Traynor has a warrant for arrest in New Zealand and the passport he is using is invalid," Mr Dunne said.  

Mr Dunne also confirmed that there was no record of Smith officially changing his name from Traynor.    

WATCH: Killer Smith's escape: How did it happen?

Details of his passport application were now part of a cross-agency investigation, the minister said.   An Auckland human rights lawyer has also confirmed Smith has contacted him.  

Tony Ellis said Smith contacted him yesterday seeking legal advice.  

Mr Ellis said although he had not heard from his former client since he last acted for him in 2010, the call did not come as a surprise.   He said Smith was compiling a press release outlining his side of the story, which would be issued on Thursday morning.   Mr Ellis declined to confirm that Smith was in Brazil.  

"In the broad sense of the word he told me what country he was in, but he also told me I couldn't reveal it to anybody."   Mr Ellis said he gave Smith some preliminary advice, but declined to say more, citing legal professional privilege.  

Smith gave no indication he desired to return to New Zealand, he said.  

"He's seemed to have organised this very well, why would he be thinking of returning, it seems a little unlikely doesn't it?  

"I've been his lawyer for various matters since 2002, so we've got an ongoing relationship and I wasn't surprised that he contacted me.  

"We've had some ongoing email traffic today . . . he's probably going to issue a media release on our time Thursday morning."  

The exact content of the press release had yet to be confirmed.  

Mr Ellis also said Smith did not reveal his motivation for fleeing the country.  

Smith also made preliminary inquiries about finding a lawyer to act for him from where he now was, Mr Ellis said.  

He said Brazil had previously been a significant place of refuge, particularly for English criminals due to the lack of an extradition treaty between the two countries, but he was no longer sure if that was the case.  

"The rough and ready reading that I've done on it today sort of indicates that's not quite the situation any more.  

"It seems a lot easier to extradite somebody from Brazil than it was, say 10 years ago, but you've got to find him to extradite him."  

Smith did not reveal if anyone had helped him to flee the country, Mr Ellis said.   "We've just been discussing professional legal matters."  

Mr Ellis said he expected Smith would sit tight, pending advice from an extradition lawyer.  

"I don't know any extradition lawyers in Brazil, but there's the internet and I've spoken to a lawyer who's worked in Brazil who's made some enquiries of other lawyers in Brazil."  

Paedophile ring fears

The sister of the man Smith murdered has been told the fugitive child abuser may have joined an international paedophile ring in Brazil.  

Convicted killer and child molester Smith fled New Zealand on Thursday using a passport in his birth name, Phillip John Traynor.  

He first went to Chile then on to Brazil.  

Lynda, who is also the aunt of a boy Smith abused, was also disgusted at the multi-agency failure and with Prime Minister John Key, who laughed off the issue.  

Speaking to reporters at the Apec meeting in Beijing yesterday, Mr Key said he would talk to Chile's President Michelle Bachelet about the escaped murderer.  

"I'll just let her know that, you know, there's someone that could be out there from New Zealand she may not want to invite round for lunch," Mr Key joked.  

"I'm not impressed at that either," Lynda said. "It makes you wonder. Is he another one that's never taken it seriously? Because I don't feel like the whole system has ever taken it seriously."  

A police source had told her Smith may have hooked up with an international paedophile ring in Brazil.   "It concerns me greatly," she said.  

Comment was being sought from police on the claim.   Lynda said nobody from Corrections, Police, Customs, Internal Affairs or any other agency had apologised to her.  

"I want someone to be responsible and say: Well actually, it was my watch, so I take responsibility for this," Lynda said this afternoon.  

"These are the people running our country and this has just set another precedent to say that hardened criminals can just walk out. What a joke. A bloody bad joke. If it wasn't so ridiculous, it would be almost funny. We're just left in disbelief yet again."  

Lynda said better information-sharing between government departments was necessary to prevent a similar disaster in future.  

"If he'd already escaped and was coming after us we'd have already been dead before the police even knew he was missing."  

Agencies have argued there was little they could do to detect Smith if he used the name Traynor. However, Traynor was the name registered with the Companies Office when Smith ran a mail-order business from jail. Exposure of that business in 2011 was well-reported.  

Authorities yesterday had no clue how to stop prisoners who used aliases from fleeing the country.  

Police Assistant Commissioner Malcolm Burgess and Corrections Commissioner Jeremy Lightfoot were asked what checks were in place to monitor prisoners who fled using aliases. Neither man could answer the question.  

Lynda said her family wanted to see CCTV footage of Smith at the airport. She said her family had been kept out of the loop for so long, it was hard to know what to believe without proof.  

Lynda was sceptical Smith would be found. "They'll be lucky to even find him. He's laughing. He's just proven what a great big joke it all really is."  

Lynda also believed Smith had conned Corrections into thinking he was a changed man.  

"Eighteen months ago he was considered still very high-risk. What happened all of a sudden ... for him not to be? And why was he out without being monitored?"  

Lynda said what Smith did her to her nephew was unforgivable, even before he murdered her brother.  

"Once he did what he did, he didn't even deserve to breathe. I only wish him ill-health."

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