William Dwane Bell

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William Bell
Born 1978 (1978)
Auckland, New Zealand
Criminal penalty
Life imprisonment with minimum 30 years
Criminal status imprisoned
Conviction(s) Murder

William Dwane Bell (born 1978) is a New Zealander who was convicted of three murders at the Panmure RSA in 2001 and is serving a 30 year non-parole life sentence at Paremoremo Prison - the longest non-parole sentence ever passed in New Zealand.[1]

Early life[edit]

Bell came from a family with gang connections and his father admits he used to give his son 'the bash as a young fellow' (New Zealand slang referring to physical abuse, "the bash" = violent beatings/physical abuse/assault).[2] His parents separated when he was seven and said William could not accept that his father was no longer around. It was after this they noticed their son's behaviour starting to change - he was getting into trouble, and involved in petty crime. From the age of nine until he was 17, Bell was in and out of the Weymouth Residential Centre, with the state believing his parents were not fit enough to bring him up.

His father had been in prison and was well known around Mangere as a staunch customer. He said his son would tell him he was going to be like his dad. William would say "I'm going to be better than what you did... He wanted to be in another bigger gang, bigger than me." William Bell amassed more than 85 criminal convictions including theft, fraud, unlawful taking of motor vehicles, burglary, entering with intent, demands with intent to steal, aggravated robbery, presenting a firearm, impersonating police, assault, trespass, traffic and drug offences.

The murders at the RSA[edit]

In February 1997, age about 20, he was turned down for a job he applied for at a service station in Mangere. He returned to the station late at night and attacked an attendant with a stolen police baton. He severely injured the attendant resulting in her being close to death. William Bell was sentenced to five years nine months in prison and was placed amongst the hardest, most violent of criminals.[3] He was released in July 2001 after serving three and a half years. However, he was not released on parole. Based on the law at the time, Bell was automatically released after serving two-thirds of his sentence. The board had no say in the matter - other than to set his release conditions. The Board imposed six conditions including alcohol and drug treatment and to work in a job approved by his probation officer.[4]

Bell was assigned to the Mangere probation office which was supposed to monitor his compliance - but not one of the six conditions was met.[5] He found work experience at the RSA in Panmure but never told his probation officer. He lasted only two weeks before he was told to leave. Two months later, on 8 December 2001, he came back, bludgeoned and shot three people to death - the club president, a club member and an employee. He seriously injured a fourth - Susan Couch who was also an employee at the club.[6] Ms Couch received brain damage and other permanent injuries in the incident and subsequently tried to sue the Corrections Department for $2 million in damages.[7]

Bell's co-offender, Darnell Kere Tupe, went with him to the club but remained outside while Bell committed the murders inside.[8] Bell was initially jailed for a minimum non-parole period of 33 years but that was reduced by three years on appeal.[9] Tupe was sentenced to 12 years for manslaughter and concurrent terms for aggravated robbery.[10]

At the time of his rampage at the RSA, he was drunk, stoned and high on methamphetamine - and had been awake for over 24 hours. According to witnesses who testified at his trial, Bell was up all night drinking and smoking cannabis before the murders which occurred at about 8.00am the following morning.[11] He admitted he was using methamphetamine and apparently told his family he ‘blacked out’ while inside the RSA.

Internal inquiry by Corrections[edit]

The Corrections Department conducted an internal inquiry to examine the management of Bell's release by the Probation Service. The Department did not blame Bell for breaching his release conditions; it blamed understaffing, low morale and poor management within the Mangere Probation Service. It also blamed the police for failing to act when he committed a minor offence a month before the murders.[12] The management of his release conditions was so poor that the Department acknowledged 11 separate mistakes which they referred to as ‘areas of poor management’.[13]


On 10 December 2007, Bell was admitted to Auckland Hospital where he was treated for a puncture wound penetrating through his left eyelid resulting in internal bleeding on his head, a fractured eye socket and numerous contusions to his scalp and face. Fellow murderer Dean Joseph Shepherd has admitted assaulting Bell.[14]

Compensation claim[edit]

Eleven years after the attacks, Corrections announced it would be offering Susan Couch $300,000 in punitive damages. Couch's lawyer Brian Henry said the payment represented only $10,000 a year for 30 years. Indicating that the next battle would be with ACC, he said: "We still need to get proper compensation. In terms of negligence actions, proper compensation is $10 million."[15] Her compensation was welcomed by victims' rights groups such as the Sensible Sentencing Trust.[16]


  1. ^ "Record sentence for RSA murders". Television New Zealand. February 13, 2003. Retrieved 2009-03-09. 
  2. ^ ‘Killer's parents talk about their son’, TVNZ, Dec 15, 2002
  3. ^ Killer's parents talk about their son, TVNZ December 15, 2002
  4. ^ Triple murderer's parole management unsatisfactory, NZ Herald 13 February 2003
  5. ^ Savage vengeance at the RSA, NZ Herald 12 December 2002
  6. ^ "Crown describe RSA crime scene". Television New Zealand. October 29, 2002. Retrieved 2009-03-09. 
  7. ^ Survivor of RSA massacre sues Government, NZ Herald 3 August 2005
  8. ^ "Triple murderer gets record non-parole prison term". New Zealand Herald. February 13, 2003. Retrieved 2009-03-09. 
  9. ^ "THE QUEEN v WILLIAM DWANE BELL [2003] NZCA 179 (7 August 2003)". 7 August 2003. Retrieved 2009-03-09. 
  10. ^ "TUPE, Darnell Kere - 18/01/2012". paroleboard.govt.nz. 2012. Retrieved 14 March 2012. 
  11. ^ RSA accused 'binged all night', NZ Herald, 21 June 2002.
  12. ^ Government orders inquiry into Bell parole breach claim', NZ Herald, 13 Dec, 2002
  13. ^ ‘Slipping through Probation cracks’, NZ Herald, 15 February 2003
  14. ^ Koubaridis, Andrew. "Killer admits stabbing at Paremoremo". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2009-06-14. Convicted murderer Dean Joseph Shepherd has pleaded guilty to a frenzied attack on RSA triple-killer William Bell who was stabbed through the left eye with a weapon made by sharpening the workings of a lever arch folder. 
  15. ^ Corrections Department pays RSA survivor $300,000
  16. ^ "McVicar: RSA compo brings 'closure'". 3 News NZ. December 6, 2012. 

Further reading[edit]