The woman who recognised the murderer and sex offender, Philip John Smith in Brazil, says she initially had trouble getting police to turn up.
Smith left New Zealand in November while on a three-day release from the Spring Hill prison in Waikato, flying to Chile and on to Brazil.
He was jailed in 1996 for stabbing to death the father of a boy he had been convicted of sexually assaulting.
The woman recognised him at a backpackers hostel in the Rio de Janeiro neighbourhood of Santa Teresa and contacted officials.
Smith was then detained at the backpackers and returned to New Zealand.
The woman, who kept her identity secret, and her mother are on holiday in New Zealand courtesy of Nelson lawyer John Fitchett.
She told TVNZ getting Smith arrested in Rio was not easy.
"I went to [the] police station close to my house and they said 'oh no it's not our area.'"
"I took some picture [with] an internal camera and I sent to federal police and they told me it's not their part exactly, but to call Interpol and I sent them the picture and they said quickly 'OK, it's him, we're going to go there now.'"
Smith was recalled to serve his original sentence and is awaiting trial on charges of escaping prison.