"We have maintained a silence closely resembling stupidity" - Neil Roberts

Until we have legislation adopted into law to ensure fiduciary accountability and transparency in public affairs we will continue to have human rights breached because the existing crown immunity and lack of any independent oversight invites corruption to flourish.


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"We have maintained a silence closely resembling stupidity" - Neil Roberts


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Sunday, January 9, 2011

The killing of Nicholas Ward Harris.

On Sunday 9th January 2011 Nicholas Ward Harris was killed on the floor of cell 10 in the remand unit at Waikeria Prison.  He was smothered and choked by what was described by the Coroner as "a seething mass of humanity" as a gang of men in uniforms "restrained" him until he died in an alleged attempt to make sure he didn't commit suicide.  He should never have been there in the first place.

The report into Nicholas's death from the Public Prison Service is embedded below, it's damning reading, it is released under the Official Information Act and respectfully reproduced with permission from Nicholas's mother.

Nicholas Ward Harris with his beloved children
 He leaves behind his children, and a lasting legacy of love.  Nicholas was very much loved by his family, he was a kind and very loving dad to his children, they were the light of his life, and he was a great dad.  He was also a talented artist and master carver who had great potential.

Hopefully sharing this information will help bring about changes in our prisons, mental heath care and social services in general, as well as showing an insight into the truth around how Nick died.  For optimum viewing, click the left facing arrow in the top left hand corner and use the scroll bars, or access the document directly at this link.

Despite the involvement of the "seething mass of humanity" identified by the Coroner, the "review team" only interviewed ONE of the officers involved before they wrote their report!  - see page 2 (8)

Even worse, they can't even get Nicholas's name right - referring to him throughout as either "Nicholas MARK Harris" or "Prisoner Harris". 

There were taxpayer funded Closed Circuit Television Cameras in place throughout the Prison, and these entire events were recorded.  In addition to the fixed prison cameras, this incident was also filmed by one of the officers present with a hand held video camera in close up.  The Department of Corrections, after controlling and manipulating all the evidence at the scene of the killing and writing "reports" like this one on the basis of what ONE of the people involved in the killing said, and spending a lot of taxpayers money on trying to prevent Nicholas's mother obtaining the filmed footage of her son's last moments, as he was choked to death on the floor of the cell which he should never have been in in the first place.

The reason that he was there is because of a decision made by a staff member in the Kotuku Unit, that decision was made because Nicholas was perceived as being 'difficult' for staff to 'deal with' - they didn't want to deal with him so they lied, and said there was nothing wrong with him, he had no mental health issues, and he should be locked up in the main prison instead of receiving the care he needed and deserved, in the Kotuku Unit.  It seems almost certain that Nicholas was suffering from depression, and he had been identified as having mental health issues, but this staff member decided that he had no mental health issues, and that fateful, lazy, corrupt and incompetent decision led to his death.

Nicholas Harris was effectively homeless in the weeks leading up to his murder, he lived under the Christmas tree in Hamilton, telling people he was Hana Koko, the black Father Christmas.  He was arrested for allegedly shoplifting a pair of sunglasses on 3rd January, and he spent the next two days in cells at the Hamilton Police station and Hamilton District Court  At 7 pm on Thursday 6th January Nicholas Harris was received at Waikeria Prison, because he didn't have a home to be bailed to basically.  His mother contacted Police and the Prison and was told that he could be bailed to her address, she waited for the phone call she was told she would receive when the arrangements had been completed.  That phone call never came, less than three days after Nicholas walked into Waikeria Prison his mother received a phone call to inform her that he was dead.

He was classified during the induction on the 6th as being "At Risk" and was placed in the Kotuku Unit overnight accordingly.  The following day, 7th January, he was taken back to Court, and returned to the prison at 11 am, assessed again as "At Risk" and again placed in the Kotuku Unit at 11:30.

Three hours later, at 2:30 that afternoon the report shows that "Prisoner Harris [was] assessed as not being at risk of self harm by [the] Unit PCO (Prison Corrections Officer) and a Prison Nurse and therefore relocated to the Remand Unit."  This was a fatal mistake and the people responsible should have been held accountable - there is indisputable evidence that Nicholas Harris WAS at risk, and needed appropriate care, staff simply put him in the 'too hard basket' and couldn't be bothered dealing with him because he was 'difficult', so they conveniently reclassified him in order to get rid of him and pass the buck.  I wonder what the qualifications of the Prison Officer and the Nurse were.  That decision was fatal.  The cells in the Kotuku Unit were safe, the cells in the Remand Unit were not.  Nicholas was placed in cell 60 in the Remand Unit and left there.

At 10 am on the 8th January 2011 prison staff noticed that the cell window casing had been removed, so permission was sought and obtained to move Nicholas again and place him on Directed Segregation.  He was moved to cell 1 in the Remand Unit. At 3 in the afternoon staff notice that cell 1 is flooded, and permission is sought and received to place Nicholas in the Separates Unit - in solitary confinement.  He was placed in cell 10.

At 9 am on the 9th January the on call senior manager attends the prison to sign the segregation documentation and was advised that Nicholas had broken the observation panel in cell 10, and had allegedly been seen sharpening a plastic knife which had been given to him at breakfast.

The senior manager spoke with Nicholas at 10 am and advised him that he is to be moved to another cell, "as he had made cell 10 unsafe" - ironically.  Nicholas refused, and was advised that force may be used.  Staff then discussed how the relocation was to be carried out, and agreed that Pepper Spray would be used.  The use of Pepper Spray had only just been legalised in NZ and it seems prison staff were keen to try it out, and be the first to use it.  Arrangements were made to prepare to use the Pepper Spray.  It seems that Pepper Spray had never previously been used at this time.

At 11:05 am staff observed via camera that Nicholas was making a loop out of a sheet he had been supplied with - At Risk prisoners are not issued sheets for that very reason, but Nicholas had been reclassified and given a plastic knife AND a sheet.  Staff called a "Code Blue" alert, but were instructed not to enter the cell unless it was obvious that he was attempting to harm himself.

Incident Response Officers went to the cell, where they found Nicholas walking around normally, and one of the officers, who had developed a rapport with Nicholas while he was in the Kotuku Unit, engaged him in conversation.  Nicholas asked for a shower and some cigarettes, and handed over strips of torn sheet, a blanket and the 'noose' to the prison officer when asked to do so.  Apparently these officers then left.

At approximately 11:40 am a second Code Blue alert was called by staff observing Nicholas by camera, and officers were again sent to cell 10, where they found Nicholas sitting down with his back to the cell door.  Master Control staff monitoring the cameras then observed Nicholas clutch his left chest area and then slump sideways to the floor and relayed this information to the Incident Responders, who then attempted to enter the cell.

Six officers eventually entered the cell, where Nicholas was lying face down on the floor, they leaped on him and began struggling with him in an attempt to "control and restrain" him.  It seems that Nicholas may well have been having a seizure during this struggle, or trying to get air.  One officer grasped his head, others applied force to each of his arms and legs, and at least one was exerting pressure on his back.  These officers were shouting at Nicholas, repeatedly calling him a "fucker" and a "cunt" ( - see page 7), and they called for more staff.

At approximately 11:45 Prison Master Control called a "Code Red" alert requiring all available staff to go to the Separates Unit.  As staff arrived they were instructed to enter the cell and assist with the control and restraint of the prisoner.  The Coroner described the ensuing melee as a "seething mass of humanity" and prison officers describe in detail their part in the attack on this vulnerable man who was unwell, and should have been in safe care receiving appropriate treatment - or bailed to his loving mother.

Eventually, Nicholas was handcuffed, and "Officer A" instructed staff to turn him over so he could get some air.  By then it was too late.  A nurse was called, she could not detect any sign that Nicholas was breathing, and he was not responding to any stimuli.  The nurse then called for an ambulance, stating "Status 1 - Cardiac arrest."  Another nurse applied an oxygen mask.

Nurse 1 asked that the handcuffs be removed immediately and rolled Nicholas onto his back. CPR (Cardiac Pulmonary Resuscitation) was initiated, but only lasted about eight minutes according to the evidence.  At 11:58 the Nurses advised staff to cease CPR.  The ambulance arrived at 12:10, the ambulance officers were advised that Nicholas was deceased.  They left at 12:30.

At 2:05 Police received a telephone call from Nicholas's mother.  She was advised by Manurewa Police to ring the Police Sergeant conducting the investigation at Waikeria Prison.  Mrs Harris's call was then transferred to the on call Corrections Senior Manager.  At approximately 6 pm the CSM sent Mrs Harris an electronic copy of the death in custody booklet.  Nicholas's body remained on the floor of the cell until the next day, 10th January, when it was eventually taken for a post mortem examination.



This post will be updated shortly.

More information regarding this matter is available on Roger Brooking's site at this link.

James K Baxter's poem is poignant, evocative, and deeply disturbing in its truth:

The Maori Jesus
I saw the Maori Jesus
Walking on Wellington Harbour.
He wore blue dungarees.
His beard and hair were long.
His breath smelt of mussels and paraoa.
When he smiled it looked like the dawn.
When he broke wind the little fishes trembled.
When he frowned the ground shook.
When he laughed everybody got drunk.

The Maori Jesus came on shore.
And picked out his twelve disciples.
One cleaned toilets in the Railway Station;
His hands were scrubbed red to get the shit out of the pores.
One was a call girl who turned it up for nothing.
One was a housewife who’d forgotten the Pill
And stuck her TV set in the rubbish can.
One was a little office clerk
Who’d tried to set fire to the Government Buildings.
Yes, and there were several others;
One was a sad old quean;
One was an alcoholic priest
Going slowly mad in a respectable parish.

The Maori Jesus said, ‘Man,
From now on the sun will shine.’
He did no miracles;
He played the guitar sitting on the ground.
The first day he was arrested
for having no lawful means of support.
The second day he was beaten up by the cops
For telling a dee his house was not in order.
The third day he was charged with being a Maori
And given a month in Mount Crawford.
The fourth day he was sent to Porirua
For telling a screw the sun would stop rising.
The fifth day lasted seven years
While he worked in the asylum laundry
Never out of the steam.
The sixth day he told the head doctor,
‘I am the Light in the Void;
I am who I am.’
The seventh day he was lobotomized;
The brain of God was cut in half.

On the eighth day the sun did not rise.
It didn’t rise the day after.
God was neither alive nor dead.
The darkness of the Void,
Mountainous, mile-deep, civilized darkness
Sat on the earth from then till now.

Nick painted this for his little brother Mune, it was his first painting on wood.



Nicholas Ward Maiava Smith did this painting of his twins Lucy Tainui and Phillip Ngatoimatawhaorua Smith who he adored.





In August 2011 a logging truck desecrated the graves of Nicholas Ward Maiava Harris and his whanau.
Nicholas's mother will not accept lies, cover ups or deceitful excuses for the killing of her son, and like her I am committed to seeking justice for Nicholas, it's the putting right that counts, and while nothing will bring Nicholas back, his children, his mother, his whanau deserve to know the truth about how he was killed and it's vitally important that there is justice for Nicholas - he can't speak any more, we must speak for him or others will die the same way, this isn't an isolated incident - the decision to transfer him from the Kotuku Unit was a death sentence.  The decision to use him as a 'guinea pig' for the newly acquired 'pepper spray' was premeditated murder of a man who was unwell and under stress in an environment he never should have been in.

1 comment:

3much4me said...

as the only surviving parent of Nicholas ward maiava smith harris I am so humbled by the support and love that my sista Katherine is giving me since the tragic loss of my boy so grateful Katherine I love u so much 4 being there 4 me and my whanau long may our friendship continue and grow

sincerely te enga harris