Another convicted Kiwi killer claims his innocence: John Barlow claims: 'I am innocent'
Wife Angela and daughter Keryn believe in John Barlow's innocence. Days away from release, convicted double murderer John Barlow has spoken out from behind bars of his fight to clear his name.
Barlow was jailed for the 1994 execution-style shooting of wealthy businessman Gene Thomas, 68, and his son Eugene, 30, late one evening in their central Wellington offices, barely 500m from Parliament.
Sixteen years on, the Parole Board has agreed to the 64-year-old's release despite his continued refusal to admit the killings.
The murders were initially suspected to be a Mafia-style hit. But, at his third trial, the former antique collector was found to have shot the Thomases with a restored gun from his collection.
The police seized his entire gun collection and he will not now be allowed to own firearms.
His daughter Keryn has drafted a book about the case which he has assisted with on the six occasions that he has been allowed home visits in preparation for his release from Rimutaka Prison, north of Wellington.
Barlow agreed to answer written questions from the Herald on Sunday - the first time he has spoken publicly since he was convicted at his third trial.
He said he was proud of Keryn for writing the book which he hoped would help in his continuing legal battles to have his murder convictions overturned.
"I am innocent," he insisted. "When something is wrong, it is very hard to just let it stand ... It will be good then, that the truth is out."
He said he had read the draft manuscript.
"It is an amazing achievement as the case as a whole is very complex and the book required a considerable amount of research to ensure that it will withstand scrutiny."
Jail was an eye-opening experience for Barlow, a businessman from the middle-class Wellington suburb of Karori.
He served some of his sentence at Paremoremo maximum security prison, near Auckland, where he met such notorious murderers as David Tamihere and Graeme Burton.
The Parole Board refused to release Barlow in February, after he blotted his copybook by taking a dust mask from the prison workshop back to his cell - a prohibited item.
Since being sacked from the prison workshop he has been on a prison work gang building pathways in the Porirua suburb of Whitby.
He was also found to have traded cigarettes for fruit and other food. Trading is banned in prisons because it enables other prisoners to buy drugs.
But Barlow has always tested clean for drugs. And this month the Parole Board found that, despite an accumulation of fruit and cigarettes in his cell, there was no proof that he was still trading.
Accordingly, Barlow is looking forward to a decent home-cooked meal. He said he had missed many foods, but particularly lamb.
After his home visits this year, he has told the Parole Board that going home is just like returning from a business trip. He has no fears, no qualms about life "outside the wire".
The family of Gene and Eugene Thomas have said they are philosophical about Barlow's release - they just do not want to go through the pain of having the case publicly relitigated.
But Barlow's family, wife Angela and daughter Keryn, are hoping that the "real" murderer will one day own up.
Keryn said neither she nor her mother had ever asked Barlow whether he shot the Thomases - they trusted him. "He could not do that ... I also know the evidence inside out which absolutely proves he didn't do it."
Exclusive extract: daughter's book describes 'monumental battle'
John Barlow's daughter, Keryn, has written a book about the family's 15 years battling the police, court and prison systems. She has provided the Herald on Sunday with exclusive extracts from the as yet unpublished book:
"I still have an incredibly vivid memory of the day my father was arrested.
On 23 June 1994 I was at the CIT where I was studying when someone came and called me out of class as there was a phone call for me.
I do not know why but I immediately knew they had arrested my father. I got to the phone and my mother confirmed my suspicions. We were both very calm as we still had that naive unswerving conviction that since we knew they had the wrong man, they would figure it out.
This continued until the end of our hearing in the Court of Appeal when we suddenly realised that not only were they (the justice system) not going to figure it out, it seemed that they had no intention of even trying to do so.
I know it seems strange, but it really did not hit us until then. We were just doing what we felt we needed to do to sort all of this out. I was 20 and my brother was 22. We were bewildered by the whole experience and I think it was the calmness and strength of our parents that made it seem more normal that it was."
Why is it that every convicted killer is innocent? John Barlow joins David Bain in protesting his innocence. Has he any new evidence that will grant him the right to a new trial, I wonder? David Bain was found not guilty in his new trial - but not his innocence. I think only newborn babies can claim that right!
Search for missing Kiwi four year old in Gisborne continues - the modern little boy lost...
Search for missing Kiwi four year old continues...
A young four year old boy, Lucas Ward, who apparently wandered away from his grandmother's home in Kaiti, Gisborne, on New Zealand's east coast, still hasn't been found after four days. his bike has been found close to the river.
Police divers have been searching in the local river for the youngster, described as a little extrovert who may have just been a little boy exploring new territory, or had tried to walk home to his father's home.
His extended family has been assisting the search and are now becoming deeply concerned for their young family member, a little blonde headed Lucas Ward. Prayers are now being said for the youngster. The changeable springtime weather making conditions wet and cold. The little boy was dressed in sweat shirt and track pants - hardly suitable in the conditions.
Some of you readers who are old enough will remember the search in the north American wilderness many decades ago for the 'little boy lost', and later the song written about him. I have a grandson the same age as Lucas Ward, and my heart goes out to his parents, grandparents and extended family whose hearts are now breaking. So many thanks to the Gisborne community who are assisting the police and family in the search for Lucas. I hope they find the little boy alive!
Image via WikipediaNew Zealand MPs given a conscience vote on the legal drinking age would probably allow 18-year-olds into bars and pubs but return the off-licence purchase age to 20...
The National Party caucus yesterday decided that the vote on raising the drinking or alcohol purchase age from 18 to 20 will be up to individual MPs in a conscience vote.
But National would vote as a party on other alcohol reforms in legislation expected to have its first reading late this year.
The caucus meeting also decided that any votes on drink-driving laws, including Labour MP Darren Hughes' private member's bill to reduce the blood-alcohol limit, would also be along party lines rather than a conscience vote as suggested by Prime Minister John Key last week.
Asked how they intended to vote on the alcohol purchase age, many MPs, including Mr Key and Opposition leader Phil Goff, said they were likely to vote for a split age which would keep the purchase age on licensed premises at 18, but raise the purchase age at liquor stores, supermarkets and other off-licence premises to 20.
Mr Goff also said it would be up to each Labour MP how they voted on the drinking age, but he supported a split age because it was better to have 18 and 19-year-olds drinking under supervision rather "than out of the back of a car in a reserve somewhere".
Of 44 MPs who expressed a preference on the subject to 3 News, 29 favoured the 18/20 split, seven preferred keeping the age at 18 and eight favoured returning it to 20.
Labour MP Lianne Dalziel, who will be leading her party's response to the Government's alcohol reform legislation, also favoured the split.
"It takes the debate away from the age which is not so much the issue but whether people are drinking in a supervised versus unsupervised environment."
Other considerations included alcohol prices, outlets and access to takeaway alcohol.
"If we don't have a debate about accessibility and have a debate only about age, we will not fix the problem."
Mr Hughes said he was disappointed the Government would not allow a conscience vote on his bill - which would lower the drink-drive limit from 0.08 grams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood to 0.05 - if it was drawn out of the ballot.
"It would have been great to have all the politics put aside and National MPs voting for it as well."
But Mr Joyce said Mr Hughes was "playing politics" himself.
"This is a party that had nine years to make some changes in this area ... and they didn't bother and now it's the most urgent thing since sliced bread."
Mr Joyce said National's caucus felt the Government had made a call to revisit the issue in two years once additional research had been completed "and they were keen to back the decision with a party vote".
Other drink-driving measures planned by the Government included a zero drink-drive limit for recidivist drink-drivers and drivers under 20 years of age and tougher penalties for people who drink and drive causing death.
National would also look at alcohol interlocks for repeat drink-drive offenders.
*44 MPs polled
*29 preferred the 18/20 split for clubs and off-licences
*8 preferred raising age to 20 for both
*7 wanted age kept at 18
But the New Zealand public may want the age increased to 20 years for all drinking, as it was before the last drinking law changes in 1999. Their opinion could be interesting, one year out from the next elections.
NZ specialist doctors being driven overseas - shortage will create a crisis...
Having to treat too many patients because of the shortage of physicians has been identified as a key factor driving medical specialists overseas.
The senior doctors' union has calculated New Zealand is short of 638 medical and surgical specialists, based on accepted benchmarks.
This situation has occurred at a time when the Government is trying to boost the number of specialists to help drive increases in elective surgery and further reduce cancer waiting times.
New Zealand would in fact need at least 1100 more specialists if it were to match the number per head of population in Australia, the union says in a discussion paper based on data from 2007 and 2008.
It lists the "onerous" hours spent on call for after-hours work and the "lack of real non-clinical time" as among factors, including pay, that encourage specialists to leave.
"I don't think patient care is being compromised [by the shortage]," the union's executive director, Ian Powell, said yesterday, "but the system is being held together by an overworked specialist workforce."
He said the effect was that specialists lacked the time needed for clinical audits, peer review and full involvement in clinical leadership.
These things are all aimed at improving the overall quality of health care for patients.
An anaesthetist at Counties Manukau District Health Board, Dr Rob Burrell, said he was given some non-clinical time but it was variable.
"Five years ago I had none. I have more than I did, so I'm happier than I used to be.
"It became apparent that because we weren't offering non-clinical time, we found ourselves short of anaesthetists and nobody wanted to come to us.
"Our department made a case for that and made it clear we were short because we didn't offer non-clinical time. We have since been able to offer some and have had less trouble recruiting people."
Dr Burrell said the feeling of collegiality that developed through non-clinical work was an important factor in retaining staff.
The head of the Government's Health Workforce NZ committee, Professor Des Gorman, said he accepted that the country had a shortage of specialists, and much was being done to address it, but there was little use in making a comparison with Australia because its health system was quite different.
He said that since October 2008, a net 1737 nurses, surgeons and anaesthetists had entered the New Zealand workforce, including 67 surgeons and 49 anaesthetists.
An extra 96 staff would be trained in 2010-11 to work in the eight new elective surgery theatres to be introduced in Auckland and Waitemata.
To reach the number of specialists per capita that Australia has, New Zealand would need: