Corrections' use of RSA survivor's story 'distressing'

Corrections' use of RSA survivor's story 'distressing'

The sole survivor of the Mt Wellington RSA killings says Corrections' plans to use her story in a book celebrating its 20th anniversary have left her offended and extremely distressed.

Susan Couch believes department has learned very little since parolee William Bell murdered three of her workmates and left her for dead in 2001. 

The shadow of what happened to Ms Couch that day is never far away, but Corrections has brought it right back to the surface.  

"I don't tremble behind the door or anything but the reality is I do have to push myself every day," she told 3 News.

Ms Couch, who still suffers post-traumatic stress, struggles to put her distress into words – but says she didn't want to leave the house after Corrections contacted her earlier this month.

"I am very sorry if we have distressed her in any way," says Corrections boss Ray Smith.

The department wanted to put the story of the RSA attacks in a book it's publishing as part of what it describes as "some fairly low-key celebrations" to mark 20 years of the department. 

"I don't think there could be any more offensive word than 'celebrations'," says victim advocate Ruth Money. "They have nothing to celebrate."

Bell was on parole and supposedly being supervised by Corrections when he slaughtered three of Ms Couch's colleagues, and beat her within an inch of her life.

Ms Couch got compensation from the department but it was a long battle.   

"This department pretty much treated me with utter contempt for a decade," she says.

"I am not quite sure what they have learnt."

However, the department believes part of the lesson is acknowledging its mistakes.

"Very, very sad and tragic things have happened but I think it is important that we tell those stories as well as the positive things," says Mr Smith.

Either way the book, which will be given to Corrections employees past and present, has already been printed at a cost of around $24,000 – money Ms Couch would rather have gone to a victims' group.

3 News