This is an About post, the first of many I will write — a collection of small pieces at irregular intervals — vignettes, peep holes to my world. Bloggers tend to create their About page first, before publishing any posts. Mine is somewhat different because that didn’t work for me. I’ve been publishing a daily post these past six weeks, and, now that I have a subscriber . . . well, it’s time.
At heart I’m just a simple country boy, born and raised on the Manawatu river. My family were farmers, a mix of dairying, swine, some dry stock, and a little cropping.
Ours was a rehab farm, an initiative of the New Zealand Government which saw “unproductive” land given to soldiers returning from the Second World War, the idea being to boost the country’s production and economic fortunes. Where I grew up, all the men had been to war and, for most of them, this land then broke their bodies as well.
As it is for many people, primary school was my first step away from home. My teacher’s name was sister Mother Ita, a delightful Irish nun who spoke with a lilting accent and smelt of soap. I think she loved us.
Mother Ita taught at St Joseph’s Convent School in Shannon, a small rural town near our farm which I travelled to and from each day by bus with other children from the district. Our parents had built the school and there were just two class rooms. I only had one class mate and her name was Mary Saywell.
It was a happy place . . .
Locals called our district Okunui, a made-up name which they derived from the area’s two dusty, gravelled thoroughfares, Okuku and Nui Roads. It was a flat, monotonous and wind swept landscape.
Our farm backed onto the Manawatu River and its other three sides were bounded by the farms of four other families: Cameron’s to the west, Wilkin’s and Redmond’s in the north, and Mattock’s to the east.
By today’s standards these farms were small, and, over the years, as their holdings became uneconomic to farm, neighbours sold out to neighbours in amicable deals that were best suited for those families with sons and daughters who wished to remain on the land. My family left in the early 1970s.
Originally there were around 20 families in the district, whereas today there are three — and that area which was once our farm, now comprises one paddock of a larger dairy farm.
In recent years I hitchhiked through the area again and stopped off to visit the new owner. I camped on his lawn and we shared a meal. His name is Terence Olsen and he was my best friend while growing up. The land is in good hands and, in some nice way, it feels like it’s still in the family . . .
Though cloistered from the outside world, boarding school gave me my first sense of freedom — the simple things, like, choosing how many spoons of sugar I could have in a cup of tea, or whether or not I needed to wear a jersey when it was cold.
I enjoyed my time at Silverstream; being a capable athlete is an enormous advantage when forging one’s place in the pecking order of a boys’ boarding school:
Cate Brett, former editor of the Sunday Star-Times, when writing her investigative article “Broken Soldiers” on undercover police in New Zealand, described me as being “… a golden-haired-boy, the archetypal all-rounder: classical pianist and violinist, sports champion, leader of the symphony orchestra, house captain, school prefect, captain of the athletics team and vice-captain of the First XV.”
Our motto was “Sectare Fidem” — hold firm to the faith — and all the teachers were priests. My five years at Silverstream were a blessing in my life . . .
Entering the world
I graduated from the Royal New Zealand Police College in 1971 with a Diploma in Policing, their Sportsman Award, and a brief notation on my file that simply read — officer material.
Graduation was a proud day for me, while my parents, to their credit, never expressed the disappointment they felt at my choice of career. In their view, I could have done much better than working for the New Zealand Police Department, which was something I didn’t know about until many years later.
My first posting was to Wellington Central where I took up residence in Holland House, the police barracks. I enjoyed the work, although I was often in trouble for my over zealous style — which brought me to the attention of the gray men who tapped me on the shoulder with an invitation to join their dark and murky world . . .
Journey to Hell
In 1973 I accepted an invitation to join Criminal Intelligence and, working deep undercover, became an agent provocateur for the Crown. Four years later, haunted, hunted, traumatised and scared, I resigned the police and fled New Zealand — lucky to be alive.
There is nothing that can prepare one for the realities of life as an undercover agent. It’s a dangerous world of lies, deceit and double-cross … adrenalin, drugs and fear.
The job description was simple: lock up criminals. Being a determined and ruthless agent, working without rules, my targets never stood a chance.
Success brought recognition, commendations, plus a medal; even a letter from High Court Judge and former Governor General, Sir David Beattie. “It would be difficult to imagine a more dedicated member to the job,” wrote one commander on my file.
It was all a lie . . .
In truth, to do the work required of me, I had become a corrupt policeman, a criminal, a drug addict, an alcoholic, a liar whose operational focus was to obtain convictions against my targets — at any cost — even committing perjury and tampering with evidence.
Television journalist, John Campbell, in the introduction to his programme about my work, Cop turned Criminal, described the reality using plain language:
“To survive undercover you have to be utterly convincing, and to be convincing you’ve got to join in, for weeks, months and even years; day after day, doing whatever it is the people you’re with are doing, and, living a lie. Eventually you bust the people you’re with, they go to jail, and you go back to your normal life. But Patrick couldn’t go back; in part he’d become the criminals he busted.”
Eventually, the work broke me; — embittered, cynical, a price on my head, I left New Zealand with just a backpack and went looking for my place in the world . . .
On the run . . .
In 1978, haunted, hunted, traumatised and scared, I resigned the police and fled New Zealand — a price on my head and lucky to be alive — the legacy of my work for Criminal Intelligence.
For thirty years I travelled the world, running and hiding, running and hiding, yet never able to lose the demons that rushed around in my head.
At one point in the late 1980s, on a visit to New Zealand and desperate for help, I underwent a psychiatric assessment. The psychiatrist, a specialist consultant for the police department’s undercover programme and an expert in the field of PTSD who also worked with veterans from the Vietnam, Korean and Second World wars, diagnosed my condition as being chronic “post-traumatic stress disorder” resulting from my work as an undercover agent — and yet the police department absolved itself of any responsibility and refused my ask for help.
Their refusal was a blessing because my life of wandering continued . . .
For 30 years . . . the wandering seek
~ Wordsworth ~
My long road back . . .
A man cannot run and hide forever, and so, in 2003, I “returned” to New Zealand, where, for seven years, hitchhiking the roads, meeting her people and sampling the mood . . . it felt like I was touching this land for my very first time.
In 2007 I wrote to the Chief Justice of New Zealand and confessed my sins — a small step on my path to becoming a bona fide member of Community.
As expected, my letter instigated an inquiry, plus a criminal investigation, and now I anticipate charges of perjury and perverting the course of justice to follow. I do not fear this process and I gladly face its outcome . . .
Last year, a Kaumātua sent me this message:
“Kia ora, Patrick:
I admire your courage. It is up to us the People not the courts to redeem you and through your actions it is now possible . . . walk freely on this earth now, Patrick.” ~ Mike Smith
This new leg of my journey is a beautiful and humbling experience. A giant wave of Love (yes, Love!) has picked me up and carries me on, to the objective, I assume. There is a song in my heart, I hear it — and I often catch myself humming its tune.
A selection of notes and commentaries —
some reflections from my long road back: