Jason Palmer’s Killer Named

Latu Kepu, 21, the prisoner who killed prison officer Jason Palmer had had his name suppression lifted but he won’t be facing a murder charge.

Jason’s mother Ada is said to be furious that Kepu has been charged with manslaughter, she’s vowed to write to John Key and call for changes in prison procedures to protect other officers, many of whom feel poorly equipped to deal with violent prisoners. Read A Prison Officer’s Thoughts.

The Corrections Association of NZ is also outraged and is calling for an independent enquiry into Mr Palmer’s death.

Jason himself had said that his job was like hand-to-hand combat, something he would have been familiar with in his previous occupation in the US Marine Corp.

“Mr Palmer’s mother is angry that the man accused of killing her son isn’t facing a murder charge.

Speaking from her home in Virginia, in the United States, Ada Palmer told the Waikato Times she was furious Kepu wasn’t facing the toughest charge possible over her son’s death.

“My son is dead,” she said. “I had to look at my son in a casket.”

The last month had been excruciating for her and she was struggling to understand why it happened.

It was “never OK for a prison guard to be assaulted on the job” and she intended to do everything she could to get Corrections to change their procedures.

“I want them to think of the men and women who work there.”

Mrs Palmer planned to write to Prime Minister John Key and any other group she could in order to get procedures changed.


The Corrections Association of New Zealand (CANZ) is calling on Corrections Minister Judith Collins to hold an independent inquiry into the death of Mr Palmer.

CANZ president Beven Hanlon said corrections officers deserved an independent investigation to answer their questions about the violent death of a colleague at the hands of a known violent prisoner. All Corrections officers deserved to be safe at work, he said.

“This will only be achieved by an independent investigation into this incident giving us an unbiased determination of what lead up to and contributed to the death of corrections officer Palmer.” Ms Collins said it was important to find out what exactly happened.

“There are three investigations underway, by the Department of Corrections, Police and the Department of Labour. I am confident that the full facts surrounding the tragic death of Jason Palmer will be ascertained.” Mr Hanlon said if there was nothing to hide, then there would be no problem conducting an independent inquiry.

“Too many corrections officers are being assaulted every day and it has become an expectation. We will never learn from this tragedy if we don’t shine a light on the decisions, policies and inactions that contributed to this death.”

Meanwhile, Spring Hill prison was the victim of another bomb scare this morning, but nothing untoward was found.

A police Northern Communications spokesman said they were confident the call was a fake. They kept their response “pretty low-key” as information provided during the phone call was “so sparse”. A call came in about 9.15am. The prison was not evacuated but it was closed and those that were let through were thoroughly searched, he said. A brief search was also carried out of the perimeter fence. It’s the second bomb threat in a month at the prison after a scare on May 18, which resulted in a full police response. ” (source)

No doubt any inquiry will go the same way as the review of Adventure Tourism report (instigated after the father of  British tourist Emily Jordan wrote to John Key, calling safety regulation in NZ “third world”) It’s said t0 have been completed but yet to be released to the public.