New Zealand / Law

Euthanasia advocate's house was bugged

20:27 pm on 16 February 2018

Police bugged a euthanasia advocate's landline and mobile phones, along with her Hutt Valley home, a jury has been told.

Susan Austen Photo: RNZ / Eric Frykberg

Susan Austen is accused of assisting the suicide of Annemarie Treadwell in 2016 and illegally importing the barbiturate, pentobarbitone.

A statement from Senior Sergeant Peter Easter was read to the High Court in Wellington, in which he referred to the police obtaining a warrant to enter the defendant's home and install recording equipment to monitor communications between September and October 2016.

Detective Constable Leanne Meikle told the court she transcribed the recorded material, including a conversation about drugs in which Susan Austen said, "I've got one lot with your name on it."

The caller replied, "Great, that'll make me feel a little more at peace," Ms Meikle said.

Ms Austen also spoke to another woman about whether it was legal to advise others about the existence of the euthanasia lobby group Exit International, the recorded material claimed.

"Is that aiding and abetting them to commit suicide?"

Ms Austen replied, "No."

The transcripts said the caller then asked her, "Where do you draw the line?" to which Ms Austen replied, "Sometimes you have a gut feeling about how you feel - if someone's really sincere - and other times you think, I don't like this at all, so you say, 'I'm not the right person, sorry I can't help you.'"

In another phone call Susan Austen discussed dispensing some "powder" and told the person she was talking to they could do that "in the car".

When Ms Austen was arrested in October 2016 the police found her and another woman in a car at a public park, where they were bagging up pentobarbitone powder.

The court also heard a recording of what appeared to be a meeting of a euthanasia supporters group at Susan Austen's home, during which she told them the goal of the group was to "inform, instruct and support each other".

The meeting was also told the names of people who had died since their previous gathering, including a man whom Ms Austen said had planned the way he wanted to die.

"He had said he was going to book a hotel in Wellington, have a nice meal, then go up to the room and that was his plan."

Earlier, Detective Sam McKenzie was questioned by defence lawyer Donald Stevens, about whether the police had proof that any of the packages allegedly imported by Ms Austen had actually made it across the border.

He told the court that emails sent by Ms Austen showed the products she was ordering were arriving, and, while there was no evidence relating to couriering of some of the pentobarbitone packages, it was possible they had been mailed here.

Dr Stevens questioned how he could prove that.

The detective replied, "I believe circumstantially you can... She keeps ordering it and making payments."

The trial will continue on Monday.