Killer’s handling comes under fire
Official report critical of mistakes made by the police in Pert case, but they are cleared as friends, family fume
Aformer police officer says it is “unbelievable” that an official report found no link between police mistakes in letting an armed killer off with a warning and his fatal attack on an Auckland jogger the next day.
Police were yesterday criticised but cleared over their handling of the man who killed jogger Jo Pert. The Independent Police Conduct Authority said police officers should have made more inquiries when dealing with Tevita Filo on January 6. They also found a police dispatcher did not pass on all the available information but stopped short making any connection with Filo’s killing of Pert the following day. An ex-policeman and close friend of Pert, who laid a complaint over the way police dealt with Filo before he killed her, slammed the findings as “unbelievable” and “contradictory”. He and Pert’s family believe if Filo had been arrested the night before, he would not have been free to roam the city’s streets the next day and kill the Auckland mum as she jogged on Shore Rd, Remuera. On January 6 a motorist called 111 to say he had been followed from St Heliers to Howick. Within minutes two officers stopped Filo and spoke to him at the roadside. They said Filo was acting “strange” and “really, really weird”. The officers also noticed a knife in his car. Meanwhile, the police dispatcher checked Filo’s car and found it was wanted after a theft from a shop. However, she did not recall seeing that information and did not pass it on to the officers. Nor did she pass on further information about Filo’s disturbing behaviour the motorist had reported. The officers seized the knife and warned Filo. He denied he had been following anyone, and the officers accepted his explanations for his actions, even though they were contradictory and implausible. The authority said Filo’s behaviour and possession of the knife should have prompted the officers to make further in- quiries with the dispatcher before deciding what to do.
“[That] would have led them to interrogate Mr Filo about the reasons for his actions. In the absence of a more plausible explanation, they might have arrested him and taken him to the station,” said authority chairman Judge Colin Doherty.
A family member and an expoliceman friend of Pert both complained to the authority about how police handled Filo the night before the murder.
Filo was not arrested on January 6, despite being found stalking a couple and with a large knife in his possession.
Justice Murray Gilbert found Filo not guilty by reason of insanity for Pert’s murder and of 12 other alleged crimes in the 17 hours before and after her death, because he was incapable of understanding his actions were morally wrong due to his schizophrenia.
The charges include following a couple in their car from St Heliers to East Tamaki on January 6.
But the ex-policeman said it was hard not to conclude that police shortcomings didn’t contribute to Pert’s death.
“Had the attending officers been supplied all the information, I’m of the belief that they would have undoubtedly arrested Filo that night and therefore it is very unlikely he would have killed Jo the next morning because he would have been locked up.”
He was now considering appealing the decision and eager to hear the coroner’s findings.
Counties Manukau District Commander Superintendent Jill Rogers said staff in the Communications Centre and on the ground had to make quick decisions in a fast-paced and challenging environment.
They were encouraged to use discretion and roadside warnings were common for a variety of offences.
“Staff had to make a decision based on one interaction with Filo. They could not have foreseen what was going to happen. It is natural to try and rationalise what he did, but we now know that Tevita Filo was a very unwell man,” said Rogers.
Police had also reviewed officers’ actions but did not believe any changes were necessary.
“Sadly, the two officers who dealt with him during one roadside encounter on that night did not have the benefit of hindsight and could not have foreseen the terrible events which followed.”
The finding has come as a blow to the dead woman’s family, who told Fairfax had the police arrested him Jo would still be alive.
“We think this is a weak conclusion to ‘get the boys off the hook’, ” said the family. “We strongly believe that, had the police done their job that night there is a good chance that Jo would still be alive.”
They family said the report showed police had had the opportunity to thwart the deadly course of events.
Auckland jogger Jo Pert (left) was killed by Tevita Filo (above), who was stopped by police the previous day.