The man who killed a Queenstowner during a taxi rank stoush is free after a year – which the victim’s mate says is a “joke”.
UK-born Paul Richards was sentenced to two years’ jail when convicted of the November 2009 manslaughter of 47-year-old Queenstown family man Mark Smith.
Insurance broker Richards, 35, walked free in January from Invercargill Prison after 12 months, Mountain Scene can reveal, and is understood to be in the North Island rebuilding his life.
Smith’s friend Fraser Nehoff, who was drinking with him in Queenstown the night he died, says fact that Smith’s killer served only a year is “a bit soft”.
“The law’s an ass. It’s all a bit of a joke,” he says.
“Even though Richards paid [the Smith family] $50,000 in reparation, that doesn’t really let you off the hook, does it.
“I don’t think Smith’s wife Fiona and her family will be too happy.”
Fiona has declined to comment.
Last Thursday marked the 18-month anniversary of the father-of-two’s death.
Nehoff, a building contractor, says he thinks about his specialist roofing mate often.
“I was just thinking about him the other day, at a house he’d done the roof he’d done. It seems unbelievable still, when you think about it really.”
Smith had been out for end-of-year work drinks before he met former Wakatipu Wanderers rugby player Richards – who’d also been drinking – at the Camp Street taxi stand at 11.30pm. The pair got into an altercation and Richards punched Smith twice – the second blow proving fatal. During sentencing, Justice Lester Chisholm noted Smith suffered a haemorrhage from a tear to his vertebral artery.
New Zealand Parole Board manager Alistair Spierling confirms Richards was released on January 26 this year but he didn’t go before the Board.
Prisoners are released after serving half their sentence if it’s two years and under. Sentences above two years mean prisoners must be seen by the Board.
When Richards was sentenced in February 2010, he reportedly told the court that when he got out of prison he would be leaving NZ to return to his home country, despite gaining citizenship here.
But Queenstown’s Bob Johnson, who worked with Richards at insurance brokers Crombie Lockwood, confirms he’s still in New Zealand – just not in the resort.
“He’s not down here at all. I think he was heading up to Auckland or Wellington for employment. He’s fine. He’s getting on with his life.”
Local broker Geoff Bruhn, from Rothbury Insurance Brokers Central Otago, says he visited Richards once in prison, where he was completing commerce papers.
“He was very, very remorseful and is well aware of the effects of alcohol, or the extreme [use] of alcohol, the danger of it,” Bruhn says.
“I think you’ll find, when I spoke to him, he was going to be a different person, that’s for sure.”