An ex-policeman and close friend of murdered Auckland jogger Jo Pert has criticised the police watchdog’s “contradictory” findings over how police officers dealt with her killer in the hours before her 2016 death.
Tevita Filo – who was found not guilty of Pert’s murder by reason of insanity – was stopped by police the night before her death. He had followed a couple driving from St Heliers to East Tamaki.
The couple were so scared they phoned police, who pulled Filo over and confiscated a knife from him, before letting him continue on his way.
An ex-police officer and close friend of Pert, who wished not to be identified, complained to the police watchdog, the Independent Police Conduct Authority (IPCA) following her death.
He believed Filo should have been taken into custody, at least for an interview, if not arrested – and if he had been, he would not have been able to kill Pert, a single mother of two young children.
The IPCA launched an investigation, and its findings were released today. It found “two officers should have made further enquiries when dealing with an incident involving Tevita Filo on 6 January 2016, and that a police dispatcher did not pass on all the available information.
“Mr Filo went on to kill Joanne Pert in Remuera the following morning, but the Authority has determined that it is not possible to draw any link between police actions on 6 January 2016 and Ms Pert’s tragic death.”
“Had the attending officers been supplied all the information … it is very unlikely he would have killed Jo Pert the next morning because he would have been locked up.”
Pert’s friend said the findings were “unbelievable” and “contradictory”.
“If you look at those two findings, it is really hard not to conclude that those shortcomings didn’t contribute to the events of the next morning and her death.
“Had the attending officers been supplied all the information, I’m of the belief they would have undoubtedly arrested Filo that night and therefore it is very unlikely he would have killed Jo Pert the next morning because he would have been locked up.”
He said the facts attending officers found Filo acting strange, nervous and agitated combined with finding the knife “should have been enough on it’s own to take him in for questioning.
“When combined with the other mistakes the IPCA have found, his arrest should have been a no brainer.
“The final conclusion from the IPCA completely contradicts their findings. The findings warrant a review of Police procedures so that this cannot happen again”
He said he was compelled to lay the complaint for Pert, who was a close and longtime friend of he and his wife. They had lived abroad and travelled the world together.
“Jo was such a caring person, if the shoe was on the other foot she would be beside herself and she would have asked exactly the same questions.”
Another complaint was laid by Pert’s family, who this morning said they believed police have been, “let off the hook” by the findings.
In the report’s findings, IPCA chair Judge Colin Doherty examined how the officers who pulled Filo over found him acting “strange” and “really, really weird”.
“The officers also noticed that there was a knife in Mr Filo’s car, and Mr Filo told them he had it because it made him feel safe.”
The police dispatcher conducted a vehicle check on the night, which revealed that Mr Filo’s vehicle was wanted for an incident involving a theft from a shop, the report said.
“However she did not recall seeing that information and did not pass it on to the officers who were dealing with Mr Filo. Nor did she pass on further information about Mr Filo’s behaviour which the 111 call taker had obtained from the motorist.
“The officers decided to seize the knife and warn Mr Filo for his possession of it. Mr Filo denied that he had been following anyone, and the officers accepted his explanations for his actions, even though they were contradictory and implausible.”
“As we know now there were no alerts that Filo had any mental health issues or that he posed any danger to the public.”
Detective Inspector Kevin Hooper
Judge Doherty said, “Mr Filo’s behaviour and his possession of the knife should have prompted the officers to make further enquiries with the dispatcher before deciding what action to take.
“If [the officers] had made those enquiries and learned of the full extent of Mr Filo’s actions, it would have led them to interrogate Mr Filo about the reasons for his actions. In the absence of a more plausible explanation, they might have arrested him and taken him to the station.
“If Mr Filo had been arrested for possession of a knife and taken to the police station the previous evening, it is not possible to determine what would have happened if he had been questioned further.
“The probability, however, is that he would have been processed and then released on a pre-charge warning as the officers predicted.
“Even if Mr Filo had been charged, he would in all probability have been released into the community on police bail. In either event, no police action would have seen Mr Filo remain in custody.”
Last year, after a lengthy court process, Justice Murray Gilbert found Filo not guilty by reason of insanity because Filo was incapable of understanding his actions were morally wrong due to his schizophrenia.
The same ruling was handed down to Filo regarding 12 other alleged crimes committed in the 17 hours before and after Pert’s death.
Following the judge’s decision, Auckland police Detective Inspector Kevin Hooper, who headed the investigation, told media the decision by those officers to not take him into custody was the right one.
“Police confiscated the [weapon] at the time and officers questioned him at length. They checked the police computer to see whether or not there were any alerts against his name. As we know now there were no alerts that Filo had any mental health issues or that he posed any danger to the public.”
Hooper said based on the officers’ assessment of the situation, they used their discretion and issued a roadside warning.
The friend said he was taking advice on appealing the decision, and was also eager to hear the coroner’s findings.