13 Jul 2010

Slain prison guard's mother kept in dark

11:20 pm on 13 July 2010

The mother of the first prison officer to be killed on duty says the Corrections Department has kept her in the dark about the investigation into her son's death.

On Tuesday, prisoner Latu Kepu pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Jason Palmer, who died after being punched at Springhill Prison in North Waikato, in May.

Ada Palmer, who lives in the United States, says any updates she gets on the case, including Kepu's guilty plea, come from the media.

She told Checkpoint that the head of the Corrections Department, Barry Matthews, said he would keep her informed and send the post mortem examination and hospital reports, but this has not happened.

She says while she no longer has a son, someone else's son is being treated very well in prison.

But Corrections assistant regional manager, Vicki Muir, says the department is in regular contact with the Palmer family, and some of the requested information cannot be provided until judicial processes have been completed.

Kepu pleads guilty

Latu Kepu, 21, pleaded guilty in the Hamilton District Court to the manslaughter of Jason Palmer, 33, on Tuesday.

Mr Palmer died from injuries after being punched in the head and falling to the ground. It happened after he let Kepu out of his cell on 15 May. He died the next day in hospital.

Mr Palmer was the first prison officer in this country to be killed while on duty.

Kepu was orginally charged with assault, but that was withdrawn in favour of a more serious charge of manslaughter.

He will be sentenced in the High Court in Hamilton in September.