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RSA killings survivor seeking compo

Published: 4:23PM Tuesday August 02, 2005 Source: One News

The only survivor of the Mt Wellington RSA triple murders is suing the Department of Corrections and a probation officer for a total of $2 million.

William Bell was convicted of the murders of Bill Absolum, Mary Hobson and Wayne Johnson and the attempted murder and robbery of Susan Couch who was left severely injured after the armed robbery in 2001.

Bell was given one of the longest non-parole sentences ever handed down by the courts - 33 years.

He was on parole at the time of attacks and the Department of Corrections has been heavily criticised for the way staff handled his case. He has a long criminal history and five months before the RSA killings, had been released from prison on parole after serving a five-year sentence for aggravated robbery.

And witnesses had given police Bell's name, address, telephone number and number plate in connection to two burglaries just days before he went on to become one of the most cold-hearted killers in New Zealand history.

Couch's lawyer Brian Henry says they are suing for malfeasance and negligence.

The Crown Law Office says it will be defending the case.

Couch released a statement after the case saying it had been an "indescribably difficult year" after she was left hanging on to life by a thread.

Club president Bill Absolum was found dead in a pool of blood, as was Wayne Johnson, a club member who was helping get the billiard tables ready. Cleaner Mary Hobson was battered to death with a blunt wooden instrument.

Bell had entered the RSA wearing a police officer's shirt and carrying a shot-gun in a guitar-case. He had spent time at the RSA on work experience only three months earlier but was sacked by a manager.

Couch was severely beaten and left for dead but survived to give evidence against the attackers. She described Bell as a smart-arse and cocky and told the court how Bell had forced her, Hobson and Absolum onto their knees in her office.
"Mary and I started crying and he was laughing," Couch said, describing the laugh as "evil".

The neurosurgeon who treated Couch said she had lost 80% of her blood when she was brought to hospital. She was so near death that doctors on several occasions discussed taking her off life-support.

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