Rarotonga killer Chris Rimamotu's gardening release revealed

Chris Rimamotu (Cook Islands Police)
Chris Rimamotu (Cook Islands Police)

Newshub can reveal the inmate who shot two people dead in Rarotonga had been at the family home of the prison's boss helping with gardening duties just a week before the killing.

Rarotonga's prison superintendent has told Newshub killer Chris Rimamotu had been making good progress in jail, but that ultimately prison staff seriously misjudged the inmate's character.

"Everything was nice and clear. He knew what was right or wrong, and he's been working on his anger," said Henry Heather, Superintendant of Rarotonga Prison Services.

But the Superintendent and his staff were ultimately deceived.

The task of fixing a broken-down prison tractor was the reason Rimamotu was allowed out of jail that day.

Rimamotu told the sole prison officer he was with he had tools in his shipping container that could get the job done. As Rimamotu was being taken to his container, it's believed he spotted his ex-partner's car parked at another man's house.

"I don't think he planned it, but what might have happened is that he snapped and could not recover from it," Mr Heather says.

From the container, Rimamotu grabbed a gun and went to his ex-partner's house. Mary Dean and Roger Tuarea paid with their lives.

The prison warden may yet lose his job.

Rarotonga's prison only has 38 inmates. They spend their days in the garden or in the prison workshop fixing machinery. Community work programmes, like the one Rimamotu was on, are common.

The programmes will continue, but supervision of inmates, and decisions about who's allowed out, will change.

The Superintendent told Newshub it is not unusual for prison staff to borrow inmates' equipment; in fact, staff had borrowed gear from Rimamotu's container in the past.

In response to claims Rimamotu had bragged to other inmates about his intentions to kill days before the murders, the Superintendent says he was not given any information about that from inmates or his staff.