|From the age of 4 or 5, Antonie Dixon was dragged by his mother to Jehovah's Witness meetings. He was forced to sit for hours in meeting halls, go door-to-door with her as she preached, read the Bible every day before school. |
He grew up with tales of fire and brimstone, of demons and devils, of a new world order, of Armageddon and how the sinners of the world would be wiped out.
At the age of 34, after a month-long P binge, he started his own Armageddon. He sliced off the right hand of his girlfriend Renee Gunbie and the left hand of former girlfriend Simonne Butler with a samurai sword in the Hauraki Plains village of Pipiroa, and then shot dead a stranger, James Te Aute, in Pakuranga, later raving to police, witnesses and psychiatrists that the women were immoral and Te Aute was the devil.
He claimed to have drunk blood from Gunbie's severed hand. He claimed his father was the offspring of angels. He claimed to see dancing goblins and hanging vampires.
Butler says Dixon yelled during the ordeal at Pipiroa, "that his God had told him he had to sacrifice me and we were all going to die and the New World was taking over".
Whether they were the ramblings of an insane man or a cynical- and ultimately unsuccessful - strategy to secure a trial verdict of not guilty by insanity, it wasn't hard to trace his inspiration.
"It was pretty intense," his sister, Carla Dixon-Foxley, says of their late mother's beliefs. "There was a lot of talk of demons and being possessed by the devil, Armageddon and not being good enough to obtain ever-lasting life."
Dixon had been involved in crime since he was 15. By the time he picked up the samurai sword, he had 160 convictions. It was mostly petty stuff - stolen cars, theft and driving offences - and a few assaults.
Police officers who had dealt with him for two decades had suspected his crime spree might escalate. But they hadn't expected something so extreme.
"I always thought he had the potential to kill but not in this way. This was quite out there," says Detective Senior Sergeant Mark Gutry, who was working in the Howick criminal investigation branch while Dixon was living in Beachlands in his 20s and early 30s.
While Dixon was a career criminal, one police officer said he was also likeable and charming. He'd had at least two serious, albeit tumultuous, relationships, which survived several prison terms. He had two children with his former partner for 10 years, Wendy Ross.
Ross and Simone Butler both say Dixon was charming. Ross says he had a "contagious personality". But both became aware of a darker side as their respective relationships progressed.
Butler and Dixon split in March 2002 but remained friends. Dixon took up with Gunbie, Butler's childhood friend and a P cook. Gunbie moved into the Pipiroa property in October that year.
Police who dealt with Dixon are confident they know exactly what turned him from a troubled petty criminal who aspired to notoriety into a homicidal madman: the drug P, a pure form of methamphetamine.
He wasn't crazy, a former police officer told the Weekend Herald. He just "lost it one night on P".
Dixon, who was a cannabis user, had drifted into P through his associations with gangs, says Detective Sergeant Darryl Brazier.
Brazier said Dixon phoned him three or four times a day in the months leading up to January 21, 2003, and admitted he was "fried" - a common term for regular P users.
Police say it changed his behaviour. It ignited his long-held paranoia and drew out the violence that had characterised his childhood.
In the 1970s, Richmond Rd, Grey Lynn, wasn't the trendy, upmarket street it is now. It was rough, especially inside Dixon's childhood home, which doubled as a boarding house for psychiatric patients released from Oakley and Carrington Hospitals.
Their mother, Isabelle, ran the house, administering medication to the boarders and the rod to her children, Dixon's sister says.
"She beat us. We were all scared of her. She used to lock Tony in the toilet for hours at a time. She would sit him on the potty with no pants on and leave him in the cold."
Dixon was tied to the washing line, chained up with padlocks and locked in his room with bars on the windows.
Dixon-Foxley, who is nine years older than her brother and now lives in London, remembers him as a child sitting on the couch and banging his head for hours, rocking. "He was always a bit strange."
Their father, Ronald, was violent to their mother. When Dixon was 7 they separated and he was forbidden by the courts from coming near the family. He died in Wellington three years later from heart problems, at the age of 53.
The only remaining father figures in Dixon's life were Jehovah's Witnesses, one of whom on several occasions took Dixon on outings and sexually abused him, Dixon-Foxley told his High Court trial.
He was forbidden from playing with other children because his mother didn't want him associating with non-believers.
Dixon rebelled. He would get frustrated and throw tantrums. And he was no longer a small boy who could be locked in the toilet.
"He had to be held down," Dixon-Foxley says. "It was uncontrollable, not unlike my father's temper. He'd get very angry. Unreasonable. Illogical. He would hit out. He grew up in an environment of violence and that's all he knew."
By 10 he was wagging school, and had to be dragged home from spacies parlours. Around that time he started to turn the violence back on to his mother.
"He was constantly in trouble," Dixon-Foxley says. "Once he started the truancy he was basically in homes. Home after home after home."
Their mother gave up. She made him a ward of the state. He lived in halfway houses, boys' homes, foster homes, institutions, borstals. About then he started breaking the law.
At 15 he was convicted of burglary and receiving property, although he was admonished and returned to state care. Thus began his 20-year crime spree.
Most police officers the Weekend Herald spoke to said he was not known as a violent offender. He craved notoriety but it proved elusive - until January 21, 2003.
Dixon seemed to enjoy dramatic run-ins with police - especially car chases. Before the samurai attacks his biggest claim to infamy was slipping out of a prison van in Auckland in 1994 after being charged with orchestrating a major car theft ring. He was on the run for more than a month. He called the New Zealand Herald while in hiding to say he expected the police would catch him.
A few years later he climbed through a skylight at the Tauranga police station after being arrested for a crime spree involving high-speed car chases in four stolen vehicles.
"I think he loved the whole car chase, almost a Dukes of Hazzard type," Gutry says.
Brazier says Dixon always wanted to be somebody more important, but the gangs considered him risky, probably because of his big-noting.
"As much as he wanted to be accepted in the criminal scene, a lot of the upper-echelon criminals didn't want him. You would mention his name and they would roll their eyes and say 'He's a would be if he could be'. He wanted to be the big man around town."
Detective Inspector Bernie Hollewand, the officer in the charge of the inquiry, says Dixon used violence "instrumentally" within the criminal scene.
Dixon had a "coterie of henchmen". His "business" was disposing of high-performance vehicles and he associated with several gangs, from the Headhunters to the Mongrel Mob.
"He wouldn't have wanted to be associated too closely with any one particular gang ... his business was best served by being in contact with all the gangs and knowing who was doing the business around the place," says Hollewand.
He agrees that Dixon wanted to be big. "He wants to be top dog, he wants to be doing Tony's business not anyone else's business."
His campaign for notoriety involved regular contact with police. A former police officer says Dixon would drive to the Howick police station, park his car alongside patrol cars and wander inside to chat.
"He's a friendly guy - very confident, very cocky. He had no problem talking to cops, because he thought he was too clever for us and was never going to get caught."
It seems a contradiction, but while Dixon was actively courting police, he was also paranoid they had him under electronic surveillance. He would beg Brazier to call off this imagined surveillance.
Brazier said Dixon's paranoia was a symptom of heavy P use - as was the violence that erupted.
"It is common for a heavy user to believe people are out to get them, whether it be police or other people in the drug scene."
In the months before his violent explosion, Dixon seemed convinced that the authorities were using 747s, bugs and satellites to monitor him.
He had painted slogans on the walls of his house and the road, saying, "my life is in danger" and "home of the satellite 747 and every other thing in the sky".
Detective Senior Sergeant Richard Middleton said Dixon's P use exaggerated his paranoia and made him more grandiose.
Brazier advised Dixon in the months before January 21, 2003, to seek help for his addiction.
"[Dixon's crime spree] is a result of P," says Gutry. "The levels of violence are so much more extreme.
"We're just seeing a lot of people who, when they get addicted to P, become extremely violent, unpredictable; who were otherwise not really violent people."
On January 21, 2003, Dixon finally lost control. Everything that had been haunting him for the past 34 years came to a head - the paranoia, the violence, the drugs, the two decades of crime, the run-ins with police, the cravings for notoriety.
"His personality was the powder keg and P was the match that lit it," Crown prosecutor Simon Moore said in court.
Things didn't go to plan for Dixon on January 21, 2003. He didn't want to go back to jail. He wanted to "go down in a blaze of glory", shot dead by police.
"I've gone too far," Dixon told Brazier that night, after mutilating the women and before killing Te Aute. "I've chopped them both and I'd have killed them if the sword hadn't broken." But in his warped mind, there was one consolation.
He told police: "Everyone will be taking notice of me now."
24 hours of violence
8.30am, January 21, 2003 Renee Gunbie prepares a cocktail of orange juice, cocaine and methamphetamine at the Pipiroa home she shares with boyfriend Antonie Ronnie Dixon. He drinks most of it.
2pm. Dixon breaks Gunbie's arm. His violent spree has begun.
7pm. His former girlfriend Simonne Butler arrives. Gunbie has been badly beaten. Dixon attacks the women with a samurai sword.
7.30pm. He calls an ambulance and drives to Hamilton, where he steals a car. He speeds erratically to Auckland. He taunts police over his mobile phone. "I'm not going to go to jail. This is going to be another Aramoana."
Midnight. He drives into Dunrobin Place, Highland Park, and finds three men in a car. He taunts them, draws them closer, then shoots dead James Te Aute. Dixon drives away, pursued by the men's friend, Steven Matthews, who was parked nearby. Dixon raises his gun at Matthews, who ducks and loses control of his car. Dixon threatens staff and customers at gunpoint at a Mobil station in Highland Park and a Shell station in Pakuranga.
12.30am. Dixon picks up a stranger, Bradley Kukard, in Howick and tells him he has killed a man. He drops him off and is chased by two police officers but escapes.
1am. A police officer spots Dixon's car in Rialto Court, Botany Downs, and chases him to Inchinnam Rd, East Tamaki. Dixon bursts into the house of Ian Miller, taking him hostage.
5.30am. After long conversations with Miller and police negotiators, Dixon releases Miller.
6.15am. Dixon leaves the house and lies on the lawn, surrendering.