Killer jailed for racist attack released from prison, awarded compensation
Aaron Keweene Howie was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1998 for the racially motivated murder of Hemi Hutley, 23, in Westport.
The body of the young Māori rugby player was found in the Buller River in November 1997.
He had been beaten by Howie and a fellow member of the Christchurch white supremacist group Fourth Reich before being thrown in the river.
Howie was released on parole in 2012 but was recalled to prison seven years later following a positive test for methamphetamine.
Twelve months later he was released again, only to be subject to a final recall order in July last year, landing him back in Christchurch Men's Prison.
Now, he has just been let out once again while simultaneously being awarded $16,192 after making a claim for damages against the correctional or criminal justice system.
The Parole Board's latest decision relating to Howie said when he was last on parole, he returned a further positive test for methamphetamine and then went on the run until he was caught nine months later.
"He told us that he had been using methamphetamine in that time and was sentenced to a further 14 months' imprisonment for supplying methamphetamine and selling cannabis."
The decision ordered Howie, now in his early 50s, to be released from prison on June 6 to a residential programme in Christchurch. The nature of the programme was not disclosed.
The board said since Howie's return to prison, he had attended and graduated a drug treatment programme.
But a psychologist found Howie's principal risk area lies in his ongoing association with controlled drugs, which the board agreed with.
"That risk is best met by the plan that is before us today for him to attend and complete the [withheld] programme.
"We are satisfied that, together with appropriate release conditions, offers a pathway that will adequately meet his risk," the decision said.
He is required to attend a monitoring hearing in October this year.
While Howie is subject to standard parole conditions for life, special conditions imposed include not to possess, use or consume alcohol, controlled drugs or psychoactive substances unless prescribed.
Meanwhile, the compensation payment, awarded under the Prisoners' and Victims' Claims Act 2005, will sit in a trust account for the time being.
In line with the Act, the money has been advertised so victims of Howie's offending have the opportunity to make a claim against it before September 5 this year.
The money, or what is left after any claims are settled, will then go to Howie.
While the notice of compensation did not disclose the nature of Howie's claim, under the Act, the money is awarded to prisoners or offenders who have suffered "wrongs" while in the correctional or criminal justice systems.
NZME was unable to contact Hutley's whānau for comment on Howie's prison release and compensation payment.
The parole decision that ordered Howie's 2012 release said the whānau told the board of their ongoing sadness at the loss of Hutley, described as a much-loved whānau member and friend.
They opposed Howie's release, questioned his genuine desire to change and emphasised their abhorrence at the circumstances of Hutley's death.
At the time of the murder, Howie was a member of the Fourth Reich gang.
The notorious and extremely violent white power group was co-founded by convicted murderer and rapist Malcolm Chaston while he was in prison in the 1990s.
It was active on the West Coast and in Nelson and was involved in a series of high-profile crimes.
Tara Shaskey joined NZME in 2022 as a news director and Open Justice reporter. She has been a reporter since 2014 and previously worked at Stuff where she covered crime and justice, arts and entertainment, and Māori issues.
* This story originally appeared in the New Zealand Herald.