The Dominion Post
Murderer escaped by slipping out of handcuffs
A convicted murderer escaped custody after freeing herself from loose-fitting handcuffs on a visit to hospital.
Katrina Epiha, who is serving a life sentence, broke free to attend a tangi, then went on the run for nearly two weeks.
The 22-year-old ran away in the middle of the night from South Auckland’s Middlemore Hospital, where she had been taken after intentionally injuring herself with the intention of escaping.
Details of how she got away came to light yesterday as she was sentenced to nine months in prison for escaping lawful custody. Judge Sanjay Patel reduced the sentence after Epiha, appearing via an audiovisual link at the Manukau District Court, entered an early guilty plea to the charge. She will serve the sentence concurrently with the life sentence she is serving for the 2017 murder of Alicia Maree Nathan in Christchurch.
Epiha broke free from custody officers about 12.30am on September 11 last year, then led police on a 13-day manhunt.
She was eventually found on September 24, holed up at a home in West Auckland. Back in custody, Epiha admitted she had purposely injured her hand with the intention to escape, after she was denied compassionate leave to attend her cousin’s tangi. Reading the summary of facts, the judge said that while at Middlemore, Epiha had taken advantage of ‘‘handcuffs that were not secured tightly’’ and managed to free her hand. She kept her hand in her pocket to hide that she had escaped her bonds.
After she had been attended to by a doctor, custody officers walked her to the transport to take her back to Auckland Region Women’s Corrections Facility.
She managed to break free and darted off into the night. She was later found at the Massey home of a 47-year-old man, who faced charges of being an accessory.
The judge said Epiha had taken responsibility for her actions, but that her offending was ‘‘totally inappropriate’’.
He said it was promising Epiha had been engaging with prison programmes, and he encouraged her to continue to engage in the services offered.
Epiha is serving a minimum non-parole period of 10 years for the murder of Nathan, who she stabbed during an argument over loud music. Still a teen at the time of the murder, Epiha stabbed the 32-year-old mother twice.