Tony Robertson has a lot in common with Graeme Burton, William Bell & the Beast of Blenheim. They were all serious high risk offenders – but none of them got to attend a rehabilitation programme in prison

Tony Robertson was sentenced to eight years in prison for indecently assaulting a five year old girl in 2005. He was considered a high risk prisoner and the parole board declined to release him on four separate occasions.  He was eventually released in December 2013 at the end of his sentence. Although he was not on parole, he was subject to ‘release conditions’ which means he was on an electronic bracelet for six months.

After five months of relative freedom, he ran over Blessie Gotingco in his BMW, raped her and then stabbed her to death. Former Ombudsman, Mel Smith, was asked to conduct an enquiry to find out what went wrong. His report concluded:

“Robertson, and only Robertson, can be held responsible for what happened to Mrs Gotingco”.

At the same time, Smith made 27 recommendations identifying those areas where the management of high risk offenders such as Mr Robertson could be improved. That’s weird. Corrections did nothing wrong – but here’s 27 things they could have done better. That doesn’t add up does it?

A few of those 27 recommendations related to the pathetic attempts made by Corrections to rehabilitate Robertson. Apparently, the report shows, he was involved in more than 50 incidents during his time in prison and was classified as a high-risk prisoner. But Smith points out that high-risk prisoners are not permitted to attend rehabilitation programmes. Robertson also denied he was a sex offender. Smith says Corrections refuses to place such offenders into treatment programmes until they accept that they have accepted their guilt. He came to the conclusion that…

“Robertson… entered prison a high-risk offender and left a high-risk offender and received practically no help, albeit of his own choosing, throughout his incarceration.”

Of his own choosing? That’s weird. His sentence planner reported in 2010:

“Robertson stated he is willing to participate with a psychologist, saying ‘I just want to get out of here. I think this will help me with my board hearing’.” Regarding child sex offender treatment, he stated: “I’m willing to participate because of the board… A programme would help because I’ve never had anything [any programmes] before, and nothing else helps.”

Despite this apparent willingness, Corrections did not let him see a psychologist until June 2012, more than 14 months later. They had seven sessions together. Mel Smith wrote:

“The psychologist reported that Robertson was enthusiastic about getting treatment and eager to participate in the sessions. He completed all the activities asked of him between sessions (and) found he had tried to implement suggested behavioural strategies in daily prison life.”

So Robertson wanted help and was ‘enthusiastic about getting treatment’. But after the seventh session, the psychologist recommended a break of three to four months so that Robertson could demonstrate he was able to practice these strategies before scheduling further sessions. Smith then wrote:

“The inquiry could find no record the psychologist or anyone else from Corrections’ psychological services followed up on whether he had succeeded or failed in putting these new skills into practice, or whether he wanted to participate in additional sessions with the same eagerness previously demonstrated. Robertson had no more sessions while in prison.”

So instead of concluding it was Corrections fault that Robertson received so little help, Smith got out a bucket of whitewash and claimed that…

“Corrections made reasonable efforts to … provide him with suitable rehabilitation.”

Based on the information in his own report, that statement is simply not true. Robertson was in prison for eight years and had a grand total of seven counselling sessions.  Seven sessions in eight years. That doesn’t add up either, does it?

Other high risk offenders

Robertson is not the only high-risk offender who has not been allowed to attend rehabilitation in prison.

Stewart Murray Wilson (referred to by the media as the Beast of Blenheim) was a prolific sex offender and was in prison for 17 years before he was released in 2015. Corrections also failed to put him into a sex offender’s programme because he denied his offending.

Graeme Burton, a known drug addict, was in prison for 13 years, but was never required to attend drug treatment, either in prison or on release. Six months after he was released in 2006, he killed Karl Kuchenbecker. The then-chief executive of Corrections, Barry Matthews, had the gall to declare “There’s no blood on my hands”.

William Bell (left) is another drug addict and high-risk offender who never attended any rehabilitation. A few months after he was released in 2001, he murdered three people and left Susan Couch with permanent injuries. Corrections tried to avoid taking any responsibility for anything, but ten years later accepted that they had failed to monitor Bell properly in the community and paid Susan Couch $300,000.

Blessie’s husband, Antonio Gotingco, seems to be following in Susan Couch’s footsteps. He wants to sue Corrections for its poor management of Tony Robertson and has started a Givealittle page asking for donations.

Maybe that will add up to something. If nothing else, perhaps it will highlight the need for Corrections to take more responsibility and accept that high risk offenders like Tony Robertson, Graeme Burton, William Bell and Stewart Wilson need to attend rehabilitation in prison.

Comments (13)

by Fentex on May 24, 2016

That’s weird. Corrections did nothing wrong – but here’s 27 things they could have done better. That doesn’t add up does it?

It does add up. It is quite possible to learn to be better at any task having not erred in how you performed it before. Getting better does not imply or require prior failure.

It's quite possible the report is wrong but snide insinuations on the basis of trivial and inane logic do not make a case for it.

If you think it's a serious issue and people lives may be spared horror and disaster by arguing mistakes were made and others are responsible if not for Blessies' fate but possibly someone-else's future assault if we don't improve our processes then put the snide aside for everyone's good.

by Fentex on May 24, 2016

“Corrections made reasonable efforts to … provide him with suitable rehabilitation.”

Based on the information in his own report, that statement is simply not true. Robertson was in prison for eight years and had a grand total of seven counselling sessions.  Seven sessions in eight years. 

This is an argument I can respect and it makes a case Corrections failed the responsibility suggested by it's name. I greatly prefer such direct explication of facts to debatable implication.

by Antoine on May 24, 2016

Could there be an ulterior motive here, eg Corrections might fear that such prisoners would be able to leave prison sooner if they were able to receive counselling? (Or the reverse, or...?)

by Siena Denton on May 24, 2016
Siena Denton

On the Correction's website is Victims Code 24th September 2015

The Victims Code sets out how victims of crime can expect to be treated by government agencies and organisations that provide services to victims.

By developing and implementing the Victims Code, the Government aims to improve victim confidence in and engagement with the criminal justice system.


The Code lays out eight principles that guide the way providers should treat you and your family/whanau when you have been affected by a crime. The Code applies to all service providers that have interactions with victims of crime.


The Code makes the criminal justice system easier to understand for victims of crime by clearly explaining what victims can expect from the services provided at each stage of the criminal justice process. It brings together eleven rights that explain how victims of crime can participate in criminal and youth justice processes and be kept informed.


Having transparent complaint processes is key to making agencies more accountable for the way they provide services to victims of crime. Government agencies that work closely with victims are required to respond promptly and fairly to all complaints about rights contained in the Code.



Is this how Blessie's whanau who are the survivor's of a most horrific demise that befell their wife and mama are treated, by shifting culpability back to Mr. Nice Guy Tony Douglas Robertson (expert at mind games)?

NZ Parole Board member Ass. Prof Phil Brinded, I read an article Sunday Star Times by ADAM DUDDING titled 

'Parole declined!'

Whether to let a serious offender return to the community is always a tough call but it's tougher still when they have a serious mental illness. Adam Dudding was granted rare access to parole hearings for some of the country's most notorious killers and rapists.

What value does a government and their agencies place on an innocent human life?

Who is responsible for unpackaging and critically analysing these disconnected horrible dangerous misfits? 

Lack of resources and expertise, more than likely and I do not lay all the blame at the door of the Corrections Dept.



by Matthew Morgan on May 24, 2016
Matthew Morgan

I thought he was subject to an extended supervision order not just on release conditions.

by Roger Brooking on May 28, 2016
Roger Brooking

@Antonie You're right. There is an ulterior motive. If the Dept puts high risk offenders into rehabilitation; if the parole board then lets them out early; and then they kill someone while on parole - that's embarrassing because it happened on their watch (remember Graeme Burton).

If they don't let high risk offenders attend rehab, the parole board won't let them out; so they end up serving their whole sentence. If that person then goes on to kill someone - from Corrections perspective that's not so embarrassing, because it didn't happen on their watch.

In my opinion, Corrections are more concerned with protecting the Dept from negative publicity than protecting the public by trying to rehabilitate high risk offenders.

by Roger Brooking on May 28, 2016
Roger Brooking

@Fentex. Its not about processes. Its about Corrections' intentions. They keep repeating the same mistake over and over again (Burton, Bell, Wilson and now Robertson). They deliberately refuse to put high risk offenders into rehabilitation programmes - and when they get out and kill someone, we all wonder what went wrong.

The subsequent inquiries focus on what went wrong after the offender was released, and ignores what Corrections failed to do while they had the prisoner in custody.

by Roger Brooking on May 28, 2016
Roger Brooking

@Sienna writes: "Who is responsible for unpackaging and critically analysing these disconnected horrible dangerous misfits?"

Answer: the Corrections Department - but they can't be bothered. They just leave them to rot in prison and then let them out on an unsuspecting public years later.

I'm not saying that rehabilitation will always work. But with high risk offenders - the ones who need rehabilitation the most -  it seems the Department doesn't even try.

by Antoine on May 28, 2016

So - if that is indeed Corrections' plan - is it a good plan on balance?

Keeping these guys in prison longer may be a net win?


by Roger Brooking on May 28, 2016
Roger Brooking

I'm not sure how you might conclude that keeping them in prison longer (but with no treatment) is a net win - when the result is that innocent victims are killed when they finally get out. Better to rehabilitate them first - surely.

by Antoine on May 28, 2016

Well I guess it is a tradeoff

(a) Keep them in longer, with high chance of offending when they get out, or

(b) Let them out earlier, with perhaps slightly lower chance of reoffending.

Not sure which is better for the community, it'd depend on the effectiveness of the rehabilitation programme...


by Antoine on May 28, 2016

Er sorry I've just read your bio and realised that 'lock 'em up and throw away the key' is not really your cup of tea. No offence meant


by Roger Brooking on May 28, 2016
Roger Brooking

"It would depend on the effectiveness of the rehabilitation programme."

Dead right. And that's another can of worms. 11 out of 12 of the Department's prison programmes don't work. But if Corrections had allowed Robertson to carry on working with the psychologist he had engaged with, at least he might have had a chance. And maybe, just maybe, Blessie Gotingco might still be alive.

Post new comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.