A furious man captured on video ramming a woman’s runabout in a moment of boat rage is a convicted murderer on life parole who could now be recalled to prison.
A Herald investigation can reveal the man is John Frederick Dixon who was jailed in 1979 for beating a night watchman to death after the man refused to loan Dixon money.
Aged just 16 at the time of the killing, Dixon was then one of the country’s youngest murderers.
His trial heard allegations that he suffered from severe anger issues and was prone to flying into fits of rage.
After learning about the January 23 boat rage incident at Tairua wharf from police, Corrections applied to the Parole Board last week to have Dixon immediately recalled to prison on the grounds that he posed an undue risk to public safety.
The Parole Board declined the application and Dixon will now be seen by the board within two months to determine whether a final recall order is made.
Dixon, now 58, attacked Joseph “Little Joe” Hishon in the early hours of August 25, 1978, at the Ruakura Agricultural Centre in Hamilton.
The 51-year-old was found lying in a pool of blood with “extensive head injuries” including a broken skull. Dixon admitted punching and kicking the night watchman’s head.
Dixon told a court he had gone to the agricultural centre after visiting a nightclub because he wanted money for rent and cigarettes.
When Hishon refused to loan Dixon money, the intoxicated teenager became angry and attacked him.
“I didn’t mean to kill him,” Dixon had told police through tears. “I just meant to knock him out.”
Dixon told the court he then stole cigarettes and a notebook from the dying man.
A friend told the Herald that Hishon was generous and popular.
“It’s hard to imagine him having any enemies – too many friends would be more like it.”
Dixon was jailed for life for the killing. He served eight years before being released on parole in 1987.
As a life parolee, he can be recalled to prison if he breaches his release conditions or poses an undue risk to the community.
'Lost his rag'
Now Dixon is again under police investigation after a video went viral showing him shouting obscenities then ramming a woman’s boat at Tairua the weekend before last.
The former inmate, who suffers heart problems, lives on a yacht with his partner.
A friend told the Herald Dixon appeared to have “lost his rag” when two vessels ignored the 5 knot speed limit, sending wake towards his yacht resulting in damage to Dixon’s inflatable dinghy.
The video shows an enraged Dixon ramming an aluminium trailer boat with his inflatable, which then begins to deflate.
The woman on board the other vessel, Tairua School deputy principal Catherine Browning, then wades towards Dixon swinging an oar. Children on the boat can be heard crying.
Browning is now facing employment action because of the clash.
'More than a fiery temper'
Herald reports from the 1979 trial show Dixon’s mother told the jury he was put into a boys’ home aged 11 because his parents could no longer control him.
She said he injured his father during a fight and split doors in their house with kicks “while venting his anger over family disputes”.
A consultant psychiatrist told the court Dixon suffered from a personality disorder severe enough to cause grave effects on his social behaviour and personality development.
Reports from experts indicated he had “more than a fiery temper”.
In evidence, the court also heard that clinical tests carried out on Dixon before the murder showed he had “marginally abnormal brain functions” and suggested “a tendency to over-react to threats, teasing or any excitement”.
Dixon’s lawyer argued he should only be convicted of manslaughter “because the youth had not been in control of himself after being refused a loan by the night watchman”.
However, summing up the case, the trial judge told the jury that loss of temper was no defence to a crime.
'The loveliest man'
Dixon declined an interview request from the Herald.
However, Tairua-Pauanui ferry operator Rob Glasgow has described Dixon as “affable” and “smiley”, adding that he usually had “really good control”.
“It’s very rare to see him in a bad mood but (in my opinion) this day he’s really lost his rag.”
And a relative of Dixon told the Herald he was “the loveliest man”.
While he’d had anger issues “back in the day”, he was well-loved by the family and adored by kids.
The boat-rage incident is under investigation by police and Maritime New Zealand.
A police spokesman said investigators were speaking with a number of people.
“While the investigation is ongoing we are not in a position to provide specific information about our inquiries.
“With regards to life parolees, any decision to recall a parolee would be made by the New Zealand Parole Board on application from Corrections.”
A Parole Board spokeswoman said a panel convenor declined to order Dixon’s immediate recall following Corrections’ application last week.
A date for his next hearing was yet to be set.
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