September 24, 2023

Convicted killer Katrina Epiha smashes windows after climbing onto prison roof

3 min read
Convicted killer Katrina Epiha smashes windows after climbing onto prison roof
Katrina Epiha is sentenced for murder at the High Court in Christchurch in 2019.

Iain McGregor/Stuff

Katrina Epiha is sentenced for murder at the High Court in Christchurch in 2019.

A convicted killer, who once escaped custody while at hospital and went on the run for nearly two weeks, climbed a fence and got onto the roof of her prison unit before smashing windows with a piece of metal.

Christchurch Women’s Prison acting director Garron Starr confirmed a woman barricaded herself in a yard before climbing the fence and getting onto the roof of her unit early on Friday afternoon.

“Staff responded immediately to contain the incident and prison negotiators were able to engage with her. The woman subsequently climbed down from the roof safely,” Starr said.

“Staff were then able to restrain the woman, and she was immediately secured without further incident.”

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While on the roof, the prisoner was able to cause some damage to the windows with a piece of metal, Starr said.

Stuff understands the prisoner was convicted killer Katrina Epiha.

Epiha is serving a life sentence with a minimum non-parole period of 10 years for the murder of Alicia Maree Nathan in August 2017. Epiha stabbed Nathan, 32, twice with a large kitchen knife after the two got into an argument over loud music at a party.

A corridor at Christchurch Women's Prison.

Stacey Squires/Stuff

A corridor at Christchurch Women’s Prison.

In 2020, Epiha escaped custody after managing to slip out of handcuffs that were not secured tightly while at Auckland’s Middlemore Hospital. She went on the run for nearly two weeks.

She was sentenced to nine months’ prison for the escape, which she is serving concurrently with her life sentence.

At sentencing, Manukau District Court Judge Sanjay Patel revealed Epiha had deliberately injured her hand with a plan to escape while at the hospital.

She was desperate to go to a cousin’s tangi in Papakura after being denied compassionate leave to attend because of her murder conviction.

Starr did not name Epiha but said the prisoner had a “history of very challenging behaviours”, and staff had been “actively supporting her”.

“The unit where the woman climbed onto the roof is fenced off and contained within the secure perimeter of the prison’s unit. There was no threat to the wider security of the prison and no threat to public safety.”

Prison staff would review the incident to understand how Epiha was able to access the roof space from the yard.

“While that review is ongoing, we are limited in what further detail we can provide at this time,” Starr said.

The incident comes after two white supremacist convicted killers broke out of their prison cells at Christchurch Men’s Prison before one used a volleyball pole to smash a secure guardroom window, causing thousands of dollars worth of damage.

The incident took nearly four hours to resolve, with pepper spray used to reduce the threat posed to staff. No prisoners or staff were injured.