Sunday Feature: Kiwi who murdered girlfriend in UK now in NZ jail after new assaults

For two weeks he fronted up to police, the media and the public to deny any knowledge of his girlfriend’s whereabouts.

John Tanner, with his long hair and pimples, played the concerned boyfriend and insisted that he last saw girlfriend Rachel McLean at the railway station in Oxford, where the 19-year-old was a student.

But behind the elaborate stories he concocted for Police was a sinister truth – Tanner, 22, had strangled Rachel and hidden her body under the floorboards of her flat.

The case of the young student’s killing became one of Britain’s most notorious murder cases and Tanner’s trial was daily fodder for the tabloid press.

It would have remained in the history books had TVNZ 1's Sunday not heard about another serious violent attack, hauntingly familiar, involving the same perpetrator 27 years on.

A look back at “the case of the body under the floorboards” that captivated tabloids in Britain 27 years ago. Source: Sunday

Tanner, now 49, had violently assaulted his partner over a period of six months last year.

In the first incident, the couple were staying at a motel in Whanganui central when Tanner became upset with the woman and they argued. She was brushing her teeth and he walked up behind her, dragged her out of the bathroom and threw her on the bed.

He jumped on her and put his hands across her neck, restricting her breathing.

In another incident, when the woman told Tanner she was leaving him he threatened to kill her.

The worst of the violence happened when they argued at Tanner’s home in rural Pauri Road on the outskirts of Whanganui.

Tanner held his partner down by the wrists and straddled her. He yelled at her to tell him about her ex-partner and then punched her in the head. She suffered a graze and bruising.

The woman left the house and went to a motel. She sent Tanner a text that the relationship was over but he showed up and they argued. She cowered on the bed and he pulled her clothes off saying he wanted sex.

The Crown says the woman was trying to get away and fell to the ground, where Tanner punched her several times around the head.

She started to cry and Tanner said, "look what you made me do’".

The Whanganui District Court was told Tanner’s victim, who cannot be identified, knew of his murder conviction. She is standing by him.

Judge Philip Crayton said Tanner had ''a tendency or a potential, in certain circumstances, as here, to lose his control’’.

Prosecutor Michele Wilkinson-Smith said there were similarities between the UK murder of Rachel Mclean and Tanner’s offending last year.

“The loss of control and the restriction of breathing, and the similar sort of domestic relationship.’’

Mrs Wilkinson-Smith said the victim had been reluctant to see Tanner prosecuted on some of the charges he faced in court.

“While I will always consider the views of a victim, the role of the Crown is to prosecute on behalf of the community. I have to lay the appropriate charges on the evidence that I have, bearing in mind public interest in prosecution and bearing in mind issues of safety for the community.”

Tanner would have been recalled to prison to complete his life sentence if he had been living in the UK when he offended again.

He was deported back to New Zealand in 2003 after serving 12 years of his sentence.

Tanner resumed his studies at Victoria University and later became a personal trainer at a gym in Wellington. But by 2010 he was back living in Whanganui and working as a baker. He played soccer for the Wanganui Collegiate Old Boys team, his former school.

Tanner did not speak to Police about the incidents and declined a request from Sunday to be interviewed.

His lawyer told the court Tanner had been "dumped" back in New Zealand 15 years ago without any support apart from his family.

Tanner has received a jail sentence of two years and nine months for the assaults and is eligible for parole in February.

John Tanner was deported home before going on to commit new crimes. Source: Sunday



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Winston Peters explains party's support for raising refugee quota

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters says NZ First shared the Labour Party's "aspiration" to increase the refugee quota, as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced it will be raised to 1500 today.

The NZ First Party leader's position was in stark contrast to comments made at the start of the month at the Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru.

"We never made a commitment to double the refugee quota," Mr Peters told media at the time.

The Deputy PM went on to argue there were other priorities for the Government.

"We've got 50,000 people who are homeless back home, and I can show you parts of the Hokianga and elsewhere, parts of Northland, with people living in degradation.

"We have to fix their lives up as well before we start taking on new obligations of the level that some people would like."

However, while standing next to Ms Ardern during the announcement today he took a much softer line on the refugee issue.

"This is about people not about politics and controversy, the fact is it was put to me in Nauru that the 1500 figure was already there, which it wasn't.

"The Labour Party policy I knew was an aspiration towards that, so was New Zealand First's an aspiration towards that, and I knew the Greens had a higher target," Mr Peters said.

"All I did was put out the plain facts and to say that it was a work in progress and I'm not surprised with the speed at which the progress has taken place.

"This was always on the cards that we'd get it done when we had all the background work done on refugee centres and a host of other things," he continued.

PM Jacinda Ardern made the announcement today. Source: 1 NEWS

New Zealand's refugee quota was previously 1000, after being increased by the National-led Government from 750 in 2016.

The new quota will take effect from July 2020. 

Major points

- There will be six new settlement locations, on top of re-establishing Christchurch as a settlement location.

- Expanding the public housing supply for 150 extra refugee families is expected to cost $32.5 million over three years.

- Budget 2018 included money to build new accommodation blocks at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre  

The NZ First leader said the increase was “always on the cards”. Source: 1 NEWS

TODAY'S
FEATURED STORIES

New Zealand's refugee quota jumps to 1500 per year from July 2020, Government announces

New Zealand’s refugee quota will be raised to 1500, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today. 

It was previously 1000, after being increased by the National-led Government from 750 in 2016.

That's 500 extra people who'll be making New Zealand home annually. Source: 1 NEWS

"It is the right thing to do," said Ms Ardern. 

"It puts New Zealand much more in line with the humanitarian policies of other developed countries."

Deputy PM Winston Peters said the increase was "about people, not about politics and controversy". 

The NZ First leader said the increase was “always on the cards”. Source: 1 NEWS

The new quota will take effect from July 2020. 

Major points

- There will be six new settlement locations, on top of re-establishing Christchurch as a settlement location.

- Expanding the public housing supply for 150 extra refugee families is expected to cost $32.5 million over three years. 

- Budget 2018 included money to build new accommodation blocks at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre 

ONN 1 News at 6 promo image
For more on this story, watch 1 NEWS at 6pm. Source: 1 NEWS

Background

Yesterday, Ms Ardern told media she wanted to see the current quota increased but a sticking point has been the vastly different policy positions of Labour's Government partners. 

Labour pledged to raise the quota to 1500 and the Green Party aimed for a quota of 5000.

Earlier this month NZ First's Winston Peters told media in Nauru that the focus needed to be on New Zealanders struggling at home.

"We have 50,000 people who are homeless back home and I can show you parts of Northland where people are living in degradation," Mr Peters said, while being questioned at the Pacific Islands' Forum.

National's Simon Bridges said yesterday if the refugee quota was lower than 1500 it would be a demonstration of "Winston Peters undermining the Prime Minister".

"If you look at the Prime Minister's rhetoric she's made great play about being a globalist, a progressive with soaring rhetoric on these issues.

"It's all very well to do the photo ops, the international pieces, but when you've got important questions like this back home that... [are] now are up in the air because of a lack of unanimity and cohesion."

PM Jacinda Ardern made the announcement today. Source: 1 NEWS


Don Brash says Massey's Vice Chancellor should consider resigning after email dump

Former National Party leader Don Brash is calling for Massey University's vice-chancellor to consider her position, saying it's "almost untenable".

The university prevented Dr Brash from speaking at its Manawatū campus last month.

He was due to give a speech about his time in politics, but vice-chancellor Jan Thomas cancelled the talk for security reasons.

The university had cited a Facebook post on 3 August that linked to the event page and included the comment "take a gun".

But the former National Party leader is calling on the university's Vice Chancellor to resign. Source: 1 NEWS

Documents obtained under the Official Information Act contain correspondence to and from Ms Thomas in the run-up to the cancellation.

In one email, on 9 July, the vice-chancellor said she did not want a "te tiriti led university to be seen to be endorsing racist behaviours".

On 10 July, Ms Thomas emailed to say she would like to know the options for banning the politics club from holding events on campus.

She said the "racist behaviour of Dr Brash - given te reo is an official language of NZ and we are a tiriti-led university - can't be ignored".

Speaking from China, Dr Brash said he considered Ms Thomas' position almost untenable and told RNZ that he believes she was "totally misleading".

"Quite frankly, I don't know if she can stay in her position."

Dr Brash has previously said he believed it was his views, rather than safety concerns, that led to him being banned from the publicly-funded university.

The documents also contain many emails sent to the university objecting to its cancellation decision.

- By Amy Williams

rnz.co.nz

Massey University vice-chancellor Jan Thomas and Don Brash Source: rnz.co.nz