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Peter Robert HOWSE





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Serial rapist
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: May 1, 1982
Date of birth: 1949
Victim profile: His girlfriend, Susan Keenan
Method of murder: Strangulation
Location: Palmerston North, Manawatu-Wanganui Region, New Zealand
Status: Sentenced to life in prison in 1983. Paroled in 1995. Sentenced to preventive detention in 1999

Unrepentant rapist-murderer, 61, stays in jail

By Neil Reid -

December 23, 2010

Convicted murderer and rapist Peter Howse has again been denied parole.

And Howse, 61 sentenced to preventive detention in 1999 continues to deny any sexual offending.

He was given the open-ended prison sentence after being found guilty of a third sex attack while on parole for the 1982 murder of his girlfriend, Susan Keenan, in Palmerston North.

He appeared before the Parole Board on November 2. A report after the hearing said a psychological report placed him at "high risk of further offending".

The Parole Board said the problem centred on his acceptance of what he had done in the past.

"He accepts that he has been violent and had a serious drug and alcohol problem. He says he has had this for many years. He denies any sexual offending, and that covers a number of different victims across a period of time.

"He is also confident that there was not adequate evidence to convict him on the sexual charges and so there is a sense of injustice which lies with him as well."

As Howse denies all sexual offending, he has not been able to attend programmes aimed at rehabilitating rapists.

The board referred to an "excellent report" it had received from officials at Howse's undisclosed prison.

He was described as "compliant and polite". He worked in the prison garden.

The board considered implementing a postponement order, meaning Howse might not be able to seek parole next year. The board opted to defer the issue and will consider it again when he reappears for parole in 12 months' time.

Howse has almost 80 convictions dating back to the early 1960s. Many of those convictions are for assaults on women.

In 1991, along with his younger brother Bruce, he kidnapped and indecently assaulted a 17-year-old girl on the outskirts of Palmerston North.

In 2002, Bruce Howse was jailed for life with a minimum 28-year non-parole period for the murder of his step-daughters, Saliel Aplin, 12, and Olympia Jetson, 11.


Peter Howse

The Dominion

20th February 1999

CONTROVERSY over three sex attacks committed by convicted murderer Peter Howse while on parole grew yesterday. Justice Minister Tony Ryall called for an urgent report from Corrections Department officials yesterday, and Parole Board chairman Justice Heron, expressed the board's "deep regrets" to Howse's victims.

A jury in the High Court at Wellington found Howse, 50, guilty on Tuesday of the knifepoint sex attack of a Canadian woman in the Bolton St cemetery in Wellington in August 1997. It was the third time in the past six months that Howse has been found guilty by jury trials on sex attack charges. Howse is serving sentences totalling 10 years for the first two attacks and has been recalled to finish serving his life sentence for murder. He will be sentenced on the third sex attack on February 19.

Police had argued against Howse's parole in 1995 because he kidnapped a teenager and indecently assaulted her while on weekend prison leave in 1991. The Dominion has obtained the names of those on the Parole Board in 1995 from its annual report and asked board secretary John Meek which members had heard Howse's request for parole.

However, he was not willing to provide the names. "You want to publicise these people and I'm not prepared to help you do that," he said. The Parole Board chairman in 1995, Justice Thorp, now Sir Thomas, said last night he regretted that Howse had re-offended after being freed. He said he would not comment on the circumstances of Howse's parole hearing. "I remember Howse, but not very well. It is not appropriate to go into the pros and cons."

Asked if he had regrets that Howse had offended again, Sir Thomas said: "Of course. You have regrets every time it happens, but you can't get them all right." The deputy chairman was district court judge Bruce Buckton who said he could not recall Howse. "We deal with an awful lot of these people and I am not even sure I was at the hearing," he said.

Other members of the board in 1995 were Corrections Department chief executive Mark Byers, who refused to comment, and others who could not be contacted - Auckland regional forensic services director David Chaplow, Manukau Urban Maori Authority chief executive June Jackson, Maori resource teacher Mrs A Motutere, Pacific Island Affairs Advisory Council member Mahe Tupouniua, who has since returned to Tonga, and Christchurch Polytechnic Maori elder Hohua Tutengaehe, who has since died.

Police had warned the Parole Board that Howse would strike again, saying: "Howse is a danger to the community in general and to females in particular. His victims are terrified of him and genuinely fear for their safety." Detective Darrell Stroud said at the time: "The question I feel that should be asked is, if 10 years' jail could not rehabilitate this man, what have the last two years done?" Mr Ryall said yesterday that the case raised concerns but it would be inappropriate for him to comment till after Howse's sentencing. He had asked officials to prepare an urgent report on the case.

The families of two of Howse's victims have called for an inquiry into why Howse was allowed out of jail. They were joined yesterday by a young woman whose accusation of rape against Howse was thrown out by a High Court jury in 1996. She said she was angry no one had told her of Howse's record when he came to live with her and her mother after being paroled in 1995. "I thought he had been in for murder, which he told us was in self-defence, but it wasn't till much later that I found out he had also kidnapped a girl when he was on weekend leave in 1991, and also the true facts of the murder," she said.

Howse's 1982 murder trial was told he had beaten, strangled and stabbed his de facto wife to death after she said she was leaving him. The young woman said Howse was a real danger to the community. "No rehabilitation has worked -- and he's had a lot of counselling in prison. He should never be allowed out again. They should lock him up and throw away the key." Though it was hard to understand why the Parole Board had let him out of jail in 1995, she could imagine why. "He has this nice guy act he puts on. But it's not the real him."

Justice Heron said Howse had been released in good faith by the 1995 board on the advice of specialists. "Psychological assessments, together with information showing Howse had a strong support network in the community, suggested that Howse had made real progress." Justice Heron said Howse had served 13 years of his life sentence when paroled. He had been eligible for parole several years earlier but had failed to convince the board.

"It is regrettable that in this case the then board's estimation of risk was wrong but this also highlights some of the difficulties in predicting which offenders can be safely released, as very few life imprisonment inmates go on to commit further serious offences." Justice Heron said it was an indication of how seriously the board viewed the further charges against Howse that he was recalled to serve his life sentence before he stood trial on those charges. This was the first time the board had exercised its wider powers, conferred by 1993 legislation. Labour justice spokesman Phil Goff also called yesterday for an inquiry into the Parole Board's decision on Howse and said he would be asking for a parliamentary inquiry into the parole system.

"It is impossible to comprehend how the Parole Board could get it so wrong. "There's no excuse for how they could have made a mistake of this magnitude. It totally undermines public confidence in the parole system," he said.


Parole Board apologises to attacker's victims

February 11, 1999

WELLINGTON - The Parole Board yesterday apologised to women attacked by convicted murderer Peter Robert Howse while he was on parole.

Police, politicians and women's groups criticised the board's release of Howse, who has more than 80 convictions.

The board chairman, Justice Heron, said it acted in good faith but its assessment of risk in granting Howse parole was proved wrong.

"For that the board expresses deep regret to Howse's victims," he said.

Police argued against Howse's parole in 1995 because he had kidnapped and indecently assaulted a teenager while on weekend leave in 1991 from his life sentence, imposed for the murder of his de facto wife in 1982.

Howse, aged 50, of Wellington, was found guilty on Tuesday of a sex attack on a 26-year-old Canadian tourist in Wellington in August 1997. He is in custody and will be sentenced on February 19.

The attack was the third that Howse had been found guilty of in the past six months.

Justice Heron said Howse was granted parole in 1995 on the advice of specialist reports.

"Psychological assessments together with information showing Howse had a strong support network in the community suggested that Howse had made real progress.

He had also been regularly released on work parole without incident.

"It is regrettable that in this case the then board's estimation of risk was wrong, but this also highlights difficulties in predicting which offenders can be safely released, as very few life imprisonment inmates go on to commit further serious offences."


Peter Howse

The Dominion

10th February 1999

A convicted murderer was found guilty yesterday of the third of three sex attacks committed while he was on parole. Families of two of Peter Robert Howse's victims want an inquiry into why he was allowed out of jail to attack again. Police had argued against Howse's parole in 1995 because he kidnapped a teenager and indecently assaulted her while on weekend leave in 1991 from his life sentence.

Howse, 50, of Wellington, was found guilty yesterday of a sex attack on a 26-year-old Canadian tourist in Wellington's Bolton St cemetery in August 1997. He was remanded by Justice Neazor in the High Court at Wellington to appear for sentence on February 19. It is the third sex attack on a woman that he has been found guilty of by juries in the past six months. His name was suppressed till the third trial so the juries would not know of the previous cases.

The earlier two trials were for attacks on two teenagers on the same day in March last year near Palmerston North. By the start of the third trial this week, Howse had been sentenced to a total of 10 years for those attacks. He had already been recalled to continue serving his life sentence for murder. Howse's record of almost 80 convictions, many for assaults on women, dates back to the early 1960s. His time in jail adds up to 29 of the past 33 years. The mother of the 1991 teenage kidnap victim, who escaped when Howse's car became stuck in mud, is horrified, but not surprised, to hear that Howse has since attacked other women.

"The parole system is sick to let people like that out of jail," she said. "We inquired to see if there was anything we could do to stop him being paroled but all avenues were blocked. "(One victim) came to see us after it happened and she cried and I cried. "I couldn't help but think this girl shouldn't have had to go through all that. I should have been able to do something to stop it." She said she sat through one of Howse's recent trials staring with hate at the back of his head. "I focused hard on trying to transmit pain to him but it didn't seem to work."

She found it difficult sitting in the court knowing what the jury did not. "I alternated between wanting to yell out, `He's murdered his wife' and wanting to stick a knife in him." The father of a schoolgirl who was knocked down by Howse in his car in March last year and escaped being attacked only when a passing driver stopped, wants Parole Board members to be held personally responsible for the people they let out of jail.

"There's too many of these cases happening," he said. "This should not be allowed to happen again. "There's a lot sympathy for the perpetrator these days and very little for the victims and their families." The jury at yesterday's trial took 3 hours 30 minutes to find Howse guilty. As he left the dock, Howse said: "There's no justice here, that's for sure." Howse's criminal career began as a juvenile delinquent in the 1960s and quickly graduated to burglaries and assaults, many on women. He gained notoriety in 1979 when he appeared in Palmerston North District Court on a charge of assaulting the woman he was living with.

Judge Joe Watts caused an uproar when he said while sentencing Howse to six months' periodic detention: "The only reason I will not send you to jail this time is that the woman assaulted was your de facto wife, and by that very fact she is no good and I'm not too upset you assaulted her." That woman left him but not before introducing him to Susan Keenan.

Howse and Miss Keenan lived together till 1981 when Howse was jailed for 2 and a half years for stabbing her in the chest. However, the Court of Appeal quashed the sentence on a technicality and allowed Howse free in April 1982. But 24 days later, on May 1, he beat, stabbed and strangled Miss Keenan to death at her home in Palmerston North after she told him she was leaving him.

Howse received a life sentence and afterward a former flatmate of Miss Keenan's made a prophetic warning: "I'm just wondering what's going to happen in 10 or 15 years' time when he gets out of prison. I'll be worrying about my own safety." This was supported by pastor John Walton, who had testified against Howse. "He's actually a very dangerous guy to be out in society," he said. Howse served nine years in prison before being allowed out on weekend leave by the Parole Board in August 1991.

In the early hours of August 18, he and his brother, Bruce, snatched a 17-year-old woman off the streets of Palmerston North. She was grabbed by Howse and bundled into the back seat of his car. With his brother as a reluctant participant, they drove to Pohangina Valley, near Ashhurst. The trial was told that on the way, Howse discussed the sex acts they would make her perform. "Pull over and we'll get down to business," Howse said, but the car became stuck in mud.

The terrified young woman ran away across paddocks, hiding in a derelict farmhouse for an hour before making her way to a house to get help. A jury found Howse guilty of kidnap and indecent assault and he was sentenced to two years in jail. He was recalled to finish serving his life sentence. Howse came up for parole again in 1994 and this time it was opposed by police, who said: "Howse is a danger to the community in general and females in particular. His victims are terrified of him and genuinely fear for their safety."

But Howse was paroled in 1995. He was in trouble a year later when the daughter of the woman he was living with accused him of rape. However, the charge was quickly thrown out of court when it was found that dna evidence did not match his DNA. In August 1997, he forced a Canadian tourist into Wellington's Bolton St cemetery at knifepoint and sexually abused her. When it was over he told her: "Sorry to bother you."

And in March last year, Howse's car was seen trailing a schoolbus out of Palmerston North, stopping to watch girls get off. He followed one of them down a side road and nudged her with his car, causing her to fall back against the bonnet. He chased her and grabbed her arm, but while she was trying to get away a passing van stopped and she was able to get a ride.

Later that night, Howse picked up a young woman hitch-hiking home at night, took her to an isolated country rest area and for two hours physically and sexually assaulted her. She escaped rape only because he could not get an erection. At one stage, Howse asked her how old she was and when she replied 17, said: "That's good, I've done this to other girls but none as young as you." Justice Minister Tony Ryall was not available for comment.



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