Convicted killer Graeme Burton, who went on a rampage in January which ended with a death, several injuries and the loss of Burton’s leg to a police bullet, wrote this chilling letter to the Parole Board Inquiry on February 21. It provides insight into the mind of a sociopath, the Wellington underworld, and the strange workings of the parole system. I don’t know which is worse, to be honest.

One of the worst parts is that Burton started robbing drug dealers at gunpoint just weeks after his release. He was able to obtain his first weapon, plus drugs and cash, from old “friends” eager to stay on Burton’s good side. After that, he just started robbing dealers and manufacturers, confiscating their illegal firearms and stashing them away for the “final shootout”, and taking drugs and cash, establishing himself as “Wellington’s predominant gangster” (shades of megalomania there). But the cops knew exactly what was going on, they just couldn’t prove it. And so Parole wasn’t interested. Gunpoint robbery, building up a deadly arsenal – still not enough to get a CONVICTED KILLER back to prison? No blood on Parole’s hands? Yeah right!

But it reminds me of yesterday’s story of the woman who rang police, distraught, complaining that her marijuana crop had been stolen as the officer on the phone barely contained laughter. Yeah, real funny. Stealing something illegal is still a crime, and the 45-year old gardener has a right to feel safe on her property. It invites a less charitable interpretation of the inaction of the police after Burton’s crime spree began.

What I mean is, either they thought that the dealers got what they deserved, or they wanted to keep Burton free to make their jobs easier, or both. Here’s Burton on the police, and justifing his own actions:

I started offending – taxing the criminals in the city establishing myself as the predominant gangster in the Wellington region.

During this time the police helicopter followed me for two days…

I provided false details of name to police but the real date of birth… The detective told me he knew what I’d been up to. He mentioned that I’d allegedly broken someone’s legs and been robbing and taxing drug dealers in the city. I said I didn’t know what he was talking about.

The detective said: “We want you to stop offending in our city – go and do another city, we don’t want the paperwork when you kill someone.”

He said: “We have your enemies under surveillance as well and from (what) we hear they have already dug holes for you and your mate. This is a message from the head of the Organised Crime Unit in Wellington. Stop taxing the drug dealers now before someone is killed and we won’t raid your house next week, we’d leave you alone.”

[. . . ]

In my mind I thought I was the good guy by doing society a favour shutting down all the drug dealers in the city.

But of course he thought he was the good guy. He was doing exactly what the cops do legally, just with more brutality. Taxation, confiscation and so on: just enforcing the laws. It does sound like the police turned a blind eye to him until his final rampage.

A compelling argument for legalization is that it would remove a major source of violent crime – competition between drug dealers, who have no legal remedy against assault or theft, and can only retaliate in the same way, risking escalation. The police shouldn’t just let that happen, whether it be Graeme Burton or just some kid stealing weed from a middle-aged woman.

3 Responses to “More on Graeme Burton, and drug-related stupidity”

Also, the practice could be brought into the public eye and regulated–making the product safer and its makers accountable.

Downside–gangsta rappers lose subject material.


I wrote a column for the 2nd week edition of Salient on legalising all drugs. There are so many reasons to do it, it was hard to pick what to include.


Don’t worry, I didn’t miss that article! Drugs are demonised as a sort of moral panic, unrelated to any actual facts. Some people are just impossible to convince about it. I also think many people have an exaggerated view of the efficacy and power of law enforcement and the state in general…


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