Raurimu killer freed from mental health care
RAURIMU KILLER Stephen Anderson is a free man, 12 years after killing six people, including his father, in a shooting rampage in the small central North Island town.
Anderson, 34, has been released from fulltime mental health care, and recently moved into a flat in the Wellington suburb of Upper Hutt.
There has been mixed reaction to his release and mental health authorities have stressed his treatment is ongoing and he is abiding by strict release conditions. Any breach of those conditions would see him back in care.
His mother, Helen Anderson, was reluctant to talk about his freedom. ‘‘I am sorry, I can’t help you there. He is just getting on with his life.’’
Anderson was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic in 1995 and was an outpatient of Capital Coast Health at the time of the killings. He had stopped taking medicine that controlled his behaviour and paranoid delusions at the time of the killings; at the same time his cannabis use increased.
died alongside Stephen Mark Hanson, 38, John Frederick Matthews, 28, Anthony Gordon McCarty, 63, Andrea Joy Brander, 52, and Hendrick (Henk) Van de Wetering, 51. Anderson shot four other people in his 1997 rampage at the family home in Raurimu and was found not guilty via insanity on six murder charges and four of attempted murder.
He was made a special patient under the Mental Health Act and, for most of his fulltime stay in custody, he was living at Porirua Hospital’s Purehurehu forensic unit. As his condition improved he was allowed to move into a transition house alongside other mentally ill patients. He is one of fewer than 80 special patients under care in New Zealand.
Dr David Chaplow, director of Mental Health, said public safety was an important consideration in the rehabilitation in the community of special patients. ‘‘All care is taken to ensure the needs, safety, and wellbeing of the patient and members of the public are met.’’
He said being assimilated back into the community was a strong form of rehabilitation. Anderson was regularly assessed to ‘‘ensure wellness’’. ‘‘The goal of mental health services is to treat and rehabilitate these patients so that they are able to become fully participatory members of society.’’
Before Anderson was granted leave from fulltime care, medical experts would have considered his history of taking medication, stability of mental state, restrictions on where he was allowed to visit and ensuring he attended recommended check-ups.
Clinicians have also placed restrictions on people, places and activities including an alcohol ban and the use of non-prescribed drugs, including marijuana. Chaplow said any breach would result in ‘‘immediate return to hospital’’.
Wellington woman Eve Spencer was injured by shotgun pellets during Anderson’s rampage but has no ill feelings towards him and hopes he can turn his life around. She wished him well with his recovery.
‘‘He is a human being and he is following his path. He did what he did and no doubt he has paid for it. It was bad at the time – especially for the people he killed, their wives and partners and what not. But we just try not to think about it now.’’
But fellow survivor Isobel McCarty is outraged at Anderson’s release, saying he had not paid the price for his actions. McCarty’s husband, Anthony, 63, was one of six people shot dead by Anderson, and she suffered critical gunshot wounds to her back, with medical experts initially warning her family she may not survive.
She said it was a disgrace to the justice system that he was now out of fulltime care.
‘‘He killed six people after all – it is a bit ludicrous that he has got off so easily. It is another example of New Zealand not punishing people who do something wrong,’’ she said. ‘‘There has been no apology, remorse, nothing from him whatsoever. And I have known him since he was about three or four years old. So it is not as though he doesn’t know the family.’’
McCarty was among a group of Raurimu survivors and those who had lost their loved ones who lodged an ultimately unsuccessful $2.6 million lawsuit against Capital Coast Health.