Home LATEST-NEWS Rapist dies in prison after ‘inadequate’ compassionate release request

Rapist dies in prison after ‘inadequate’ compassionate release request

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Murray Kannewischer, then 85, at his conviction in the Dunedin District Court in December 2017.

HAMISH McNEILLY/Stuff

Murray Kannewischer, then 85, at his conviction in the Dunedin District Court in December 2017.

Sex offender Murray Kannewischer, who raped a 12-year-old while her mother was in hospital, was told upon sentencing that he would likely die in prison.

He was 85 when he was sentenced to eight years in prison by the Dunedin District Court in December 2017 after a jury found him guilty of 21 sex offences, including two of rape.

The Otago Corrections Facility prison director, Lyndal Miles, confirmed that Kannewischer died on May 4 after a period of illness.

The 89-year-old had been unwell since February and Corrections had submitted a compassionate request for release to the New Zealand Parole Board a month before his death.

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When a person in prison is seriously unwell and unlikely to recover, they can request merciful release.

The Parole Board declined to refer Kannewischer’s application to a hearing because it required more details about his diagnosis and prognosis, and a confirmed address to release him, Miles said.

Prior to Kannewischer’s application, corrections had been made to multiple accommodation providers.

“Unfortunately, we were unable to confirm a suitable accommodation provider willing to accept the man before he passed away on May 4, 2021.”

The probation officer’s decision said the application for compassionate release did not include medical information from a registered physician treating Kannewischer. It was not said what illness he was suffering from, whether it was serious or not, or whether he was likely to recover.

“The application is wholly inadequate and is therefore rejected,” said chairman Sir Ron Young.

Miles said a new parole application process had been agreed with the Parole Board.

All applications must now include a confirmed release address and a clear summary of the prisoner’s diagnosis and prognosis, signed and dated by a physician, on one page.

Otago Corrections Facility near Milton, South Otago.

Wilma McCorkindale / Stuff

Otago Corrections Facility near Milton, South Otago.

In sentencing Kannewischer, defense attorney John Westgate predicted that any punishment his client received “could be the end of the case” for him.

His client already had health problems and had the prospect of dying in prison, he said.

Kannewischer showed no emotion when his victims testified, including one who told him, “You took my youth away.”

The court heard from a witness who was told by a complainant that she had been raped by Kannewischer when she was 12 and while her mother was in hospital giving birth.

Another woman spoke of the “submissive weapons” Kannewischer used, including a shoe, a slipper and a belt.

The crime left her “deeply scarred”.

“Deep down, I hope what you heard… was hard to listen to. It was for me, it was for them and really it should have been for you too,” Judge Michael Crosbie told Kannewischer.

He had preyed on the young women with “self-induced justification”.

The former Dunedin man denied sexually assaulting six girls between 1963 and 1983, leading to a five-day trial.

He took no position in defense, but the court heard claims that he was a hard-working man known as a disciplinarian.

During a 2020 hearing, Kannewischer continued to deny his offense, alleging lies had been told in court.

A psychological report rated him as low risk, but due to his denial, age and health, he was not considered suitable for any rehabilitation program.

He did not need to be transferred to the high dependency ward at Rimutaka Prison in Wellington at the time “because he still has a basic ability to live independently,” the probation commission said.

He was supposed to appear before the board again at the end of July.

Kannewische’s death has been referred to the coroner.

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