Former playboy businessman and now convicted sex and drug offender Mark Lyon will remain behind bars after his appeal to overturn his convictions failed.
Sixty-year-old Lyon has been in prison since December 2014 after being found guilty of a range of sexual and drug-related offences including the supply of methamphetamine to underage girls in exchange for sex.
One of the most serious offences involved kidnapping a woman, who was then chained up in a room known as the dungeon and sexually violated.
But the Court of Appeal didn’t agree.
Attempts were made to buy off witnesses before Lyon’s trial.
Documents submitted during his appeal show how Lyon arranged for a friend, a prominent Auckland gangster, to approach at least three of his female victims to change their stories. At least two were offered tens of thousands of dollars to do so.
The Court of Appeal judges found, “Mr. Lyon had knowledge that two complainants had changed their account of events from those originally given to police”.
In a revised statement to police one of his victims said, “After Mark Lyon was arrested I was visited by a friend of his [the gangster]. I was given $20,000 to do another statement about this case saying what I told the police wasn’t true. I took the money and in October 2012 I made an affidavit contradicting my original interview. I only did this because I had been paid”.
Another of Lyon’s victims said her “revised” statement was provided to her by the gangster, who then took her to court to sign it.
Lyon’s lawyer told the Court of Appeal that before the trial started Lyon was confident, telling him “these people aren’t going to turn up” to give evidence.
In the end they all testified, leading to Lyon’s 15-year sentence with a minimum non parole period of eight years.
From millionaire property developer to the drug-addled owner of a sex dungeon … Scion of a well-to-do family and a former high flyer in Auckland’s property market, Mark Lyon has seen his world tumble from riches to rags, from inner-city penthouse to a seamy underground world of drugs, sex and violence. Here’s how it happened.
Mark Lyon slipped down the ladder of society, bouncing off every rung, until he came to a stop in Auckland Prison’s cell block D.
Master of the universe, property developer, millionaire, would-be gangster, drug addict and sexual deviant – Lyon transformed as he fell, submerged in the muck of increasingly dark and dirty worlds.
Sentenced to 15 years in prison, aged 59, his prospects have gone from ripe to rancid.
The Auckland Grammar boy was born blessed, raised in a family buoyant on the success of patriarch and business supremo Cliff Lyon.
Mark Lyon finished school well enough. He was bright, with a flair for English and science, leaving for a marketing job in a publishing house.
But his money – and there was plenty – would come from property. He became part of Chase Corporation’s development team, then struck out on his own.
The first millions came age 25, before the 1987 share market crash. Where others drowned under the financial tsunami, Lyon rose to the surface and then walked on it.
Lyon was tall – almost two meters – and handsome, flush with money and hungry to make more.
Through the 1990s, in his 30s, he bought and built and leased and rented property, creating a portfolio of wealth that would fuel his addictions in the years to come.
He created Mission Corporation, lived in the penthouse of an inner-city apartment and greeted callers with a phone message saying: “Welcome to the Twilight Zone.”
Lyon bought Queen St’s Mid-City Centre, filling shops with tenants, and developed Vulcan Lane. He had dozens of commercial tenants in Newmarket, then in other parts of Auckland.
Media-shy and part of the city’s inner circle, Lyon was friends with Eric Watson, now a billionaire, and in 1998 outbid his rival for a lunch date with Kylie Bax and Donald Trump. The $50,000 went to charity and Lyon went to New York, with his eye on the property magnate rather than the supermodel.
He loved it wild, though.
One-time friend and sometime bodyguard Jamie Lockett remembers Lyon tossing him the keys to an AMG Mercedes, newly bought. “He said ‘take me for a ride’,” jumping in the passenger seat as “hard-out petrol-head” Lockett tore around Auckland at speed.
“Just too much money,” says Lockett, 53, of Lyon.
Thinking on the money, Lockett sounds a little wistful. He’s walked against the tide for years and just lost his latest hope for a balanced life – a 60-foot boat seized and being auctioned to pay bills.
“He was spending $20,000 a day,” says Lockett.
That was 2002. Lyon had a magnificent home in Omana Ave, on the slopes of Mt Eden and neighboring Government House. It was opulent – velvet curtains, a grand piano, sports cars in the garage.
When it came to parties, though, things were a little different from over the fence.
There was booze, drugs and there were hookers and the carnage would go on for days. Lockett recalls people with P pipes in one hand and pistols in the other. “How come you didn’t do something about it,” he was asked, replying: “Why should I put my life at risk?”
Lifelong criminal and hard man Petar Vitali was there too. He always liked guns. One bedroom was for a senior Head Hunter. Other gang members were often present for parties.
It was a place where, eventually, there would be disaster.
In September that year, fire destroyed Lyon’s home. Lockett – in bodyguard mode – kept the curious and light-fingered at bay for a few days with extreme menace and a samurai sword.
Eventually though, Lyon’s decadence was there for anyone willing to take a look.
Amid the ruin, his bedroom was the most striking sight. There was a huge double bed with a large ornate iron clock behind it. On it, what would be Lyon’s tragic signature – a painstakingly-created montage of pornographic images clipped from magazines – it was an effort repeated in home after home for years to come.
One circled the other as Lyon sank further and further down.
“Such a beautiful home,” Lockett recalls.
In the wake of the loss of Omana Ave, Lyon slipped out of normal life into its feral underbelly.
Home – for a brief period – became a basement area in the Chancery carpark, the development he had financed before it all went crazy. It was completely sealed off from the sun. Dangerously, a large sheet of iron balanced above the only entrance. At the time, Lyon was facing charges of possessing a pistol and was haunted by those seeking him, drugs or money.
Inside, the stark concrete bunker was furnished with salvage from the mansion. Much of value had been taken – an estimated $500,000 of belongings. At one end of the cavernous room, furthermost from the door, was a mattress.
When Lyon walked around town, he wore dirty, ragged jeans held up by string and T-shirts washed less often than they could have been. He would wear wigs – there was a blond mane, like his own, and later, a bizarre set of dreadlocks. Strikingly, his front teeth were missing.
Solace was sought in Rarotonga. A residence permit was granted and a good behavior bond – said to be $150,000 – paid, in an arrangement the Cook Islands regretted within months.
Despite the calming presence of his then-partner Susan, the party went on. Rarotonga is a clean island, but Lockett claims there were drugs and wild times.
Lyon shipped across White Lightning, a 2000 hp speedboat which produced an ear-splitting racket and infuriated locals. In a bizarre stunt, Lyon and partner blasted off into the Pacific, aiming for the distant island of Mangaia.
At top speed, they covered the 204 km in just a few hours before ripping the bottom of the boat out on a reef and having to walk the final meters to shore.
On top of the parties, cars driven into the sea and White Lightning, there were complaints from young women about Lyon’s behavior.
The generally relaxed locals marched in protest, Lyon left and returned to Auckland where he was given a last chance on existing charges.
Judge Philip Recordon gave Lyon a community work sentence where he had expected prison, hearing the millionaire had wanted to help gang members but had become entangled in their lifestyle.
The judge told Lyon he was a “poor little rich boy” who was “out of his depth and hooked on drugs”.
For Cliff Lyon, watching from the back of the court with Lyon’s two brothers, it must have seemed the end of a chapter.
For Lyon, though, nothing changed except for the worse.
Different place, same story.
He wandered Fort St, winding up in a coma after an altercation left him face down with his skull cracked. In brothels in the area, he was known for his drug abuse and the desire it created.
He was also known for thwarted desire. For Lyon, P abuse meant he had an itch no scratching would satisfy, and frustration at his inability would be directed at the women he had hired.
There were a constant smattering of charges – police arrested Lyon minutes after he thrust a paintball gun into the face of a man drawing cash from an ATM at 7.30 am in September 2005. “Drug-induced”, a judge later called it.
The same month Lyon took a samurai sword and a large hunting knife and went to visit his estranged partner and her two children, going into the house at 6 am to find two men in a sitting room.
Two head butts to the face of one man earned him a new assault charge.
There was a spell in prison after the 2004 community sentence was appealed. Sentenced to 15 months in Hawkes Bay prison in 2006, his time was spent lodging numerous papers with the courts in an attempt to get out as quickly as possible.
When Lyon was released, he found parts of his fortune had slipped from his hands.
In 2007, he alleged in court that a commercial structure created to distance himself publicly from his fortune had been used to remove about $6 million of it. It was the first of two such cases. In the other, in 2014, he claimed to have been cut out of a deal worth $10 million to him.
Between the two cases, Lyon slipped further into the grey and murky netherworld in a constant search for that which would satisfy his addictions and desires.
From 2009, at least, Lyon had come to prey on the vulnerable. He owned a 29-apartment building called Artizanz in Eden Terrace, filling units with an entourage of the desperate and dissolute.
As at Omana Ave, although far less grandly, the parties went on forever. There were women – prostitutes – Lyon had known for years and, with them, he used methamphetamine like a leash. For others, he used it to bait a trap.
His co-accused, a woman in her early 20s with her name still suppressed, would find girls as young as 14, targeting those grappling with a new-found P addiction.
They would be brought to Lyon, who gave them methamphetamine in return for sex.
Detective Sergeant Andrew Saunders, who led the investigation, says: “She was effectively his pimp, if you like.”
Whatever free will his addicted victims might have had was irrelevant to Lyon, the jury found in the case of one victim. Judge Russell Collins, who sentenced Lyon, said “when she did not willingly provide (oral sex), you took what you believed you were entitled to.
“In the broadest summaries, you played on addiction to methamphetamine or a desire on behalf of others for drugs for your own sexual gratification.”
One victim in her mid-20s, called “K” in court, was believed by Lyon to have stolen money and drugs. She was taken from the street, “desperate for methamphetamine“ and brought to Lyon. There, the court heard, Lyon had her taken to a room he called the “dungeon” where she was shackled with a collar around her neck, fastened to a device which left her hunched and unable to move freely.
Lyon forced her to carry out oral sex for what she said “felt like a couple of hours“.
At one point, the court was told, she begged Lyon to rape her so it would be over. Lyon told her she was more beautiful when she cried, the court heard.
One day, for whatever reason, she approached a youth aid officer on Karangahape Rd. Mark Lyon was using her to get girls, she said, and “someone was going to die” if he wasn’t stopped.
In thrall to Lyon, she disappeared back into his world. That one piece of information would have to be enough.
“She knew what she was doing and knew it was wrong, but she had her own dependency issues,” says Saunders.
It took police work. A plan was hatched, with a three-month timetable; it took four months to crack.
There was a raid, arrests, and again, Lyon’s signature montage of porn. Then came the difficult task of tracking down victims who would testify. Young girls and working prostitutes, living at the edge of society with methamphetamine addictions, were not willing witnesses.
“You’re asking young girls to stand in front of a bunch of strangers and tell them very personal things,” says Saunders.
Five complainants showed up at court. “There’s probably another six or seven we identified,” he says.
It took two-and-a-half years for the case to come to trial. The victims needed constant support, particularly after some reported approaches from “associates of Lyon” with offers of cash if they pulled their testimony.
There was never any connection identified between the offer and Lyon.
“Those girls had been through enough.”
The father of one of the girls agrees, describing his daughter as devastated by Lyon.
“She’s depressed, she suffers from anxiety.” The aftermath saw her successfully complete a drug rehabilitation, only to have tertiary study derailed by the court case.
The father encountered Lyon when he wound up working at the place where his daughter’s abuser was receiving rehab treatment. Horrified, he went home, got drunk “and went to take a gun out of my gun safe. I just wanted to go around and shoot him”.
In a moment of clarity, he rang the police and begged them to come and take his guns away.
“He’s had so many chances from the judiciary in the past,” says the father. “He’s gone off into this world of perverted sex and drugs and firearms and gangs. I just see him as the devil.”
He sat there in the Victim Support room, watching his girl leave to testify in court – proud of her courage and terrified at the ordeal she faced.
Distant from his own father, he had pledged at his daughter’s birth to give her everything he had missed out on.
“It turns out I’ve failed her. I failed to protect her from this scum.”
The father is pained beyond the comfort offered by Justice Collins, who told the court he hoped “as a society we have matured to the point where we can understand those sort of things are well beyond the control of even the best of parents and the best-intentioned parents”.
There is little comfort, too, for Lyon’s father, Cliff, so distant now from his son.
Through the Weekend Herald, he offers an apology and sympathy “to any innocent people who may have been affected” by his son.
“Our family are deeply saddened at these 2012 charges and the changes to Mark’s personality and conduct that appear to be brought about by the use of methamphetamine.”
On bail, Lyon rented an apartment from car dealer John Murphy. Immediately, he bought cameras and had them installed to watch outside the apartment. Iron bars were put in to keep people out.
Inside, Lyon recreated his mad, mad world.
“I’ve had people who have been around to his house,” says Murphy. “There’s a mountain of methamphetamine. Young kids would go in there for days on end.”
One morning, Murphy found a young girl – about 16, 17 – slumped outside the apartment.
“Her eyes were going backwards in her head. He just left her there like a piece of rubbish.”
The tenancy ended badly “with a trashed building and a police raid and nothing but aggravation”. Again there was the porn montage. In the rubbish, multiple prescription packets of Viagra-style drugs – the itch which can’t be scratched.
One of Lyon’s sons visited. Murphy recalls him saying: “This is just another event. This is how it ends up.”
Murphy hopes prison will help but “he’s just a drug addict”.
Without Lyon and his money, the entourage will need to find somewhere else to buy drugs and some other way to pay.
The hangers-on, the money, the parties – Murphy says: “I truly believe Mark Lyon is the biggest drug distributor in Auckland.”
He knows people on the other side of the law, does Murphy. Lyon, he says, is “what they call a screamer” in prison.
“Every night before he’s going to sleep, he screams.”
The party is over.
- NZ Herald
Mark Lyon’s porn pigsty and his massive unpaid clean up bill
FORMER PROPERTY tycoon turned P-addict Mark Lyon is out from behind bars – and already fresh trouble is brewing.
The chronic 58-year-old methamphetamine addict, once renowned for his love of Versace, was arrested in May last year on weapons and explosive charges after an early-morning police raid on his rented Greenlane property.
The heavily-secured property, occupied by Lyon and his revolving door of transient young girlfriends, was a pigsty before the cops arrived – after they left it resembled a bomb site in war torn Beirut.
The owner of the property, car dealer John Murphy, is holding Lyon liable for all the damages – estimated to be upwards of $15,000 – and has now hired former champion boxer Sean Sullivan to recover the debt.
Sullivan – best remembered for pushing two-time world super middleweight champion Anthony Mundine to the wire in 2003 – is now making a living chasing toe rags like Lyon and if nothing else, he is relentless. He’s also earned a reputation of using slightly unorthodox methods to recover money, but this time round he’s having to play everything by the book.
That has meant going directly to Lyon’s ‘lawyer’ Rick Phillips to get the matter resolved, but that’s proving more difficult than expected – as we found out for ourselves when we called the undischarged bankrupt for comment this week.
Phillips did confirm he was acting for the former multimillionaire property developer, but that was as far as he was prepared to go. He wouldn’t confirm speculation that Lyon had been bailed to a supposed ‘half-way house’ in Henderson – where the only 12-step program is the one from the front porch to the letterbox to get the newspaper in the morning.
He also wouldn’t confirm any knowledge of the debt to Murphy or the fact Sullivan was chasing the money.
He wouldn’t even answer questions about how Lyon was doing since being released on bail from jail – or whether he’d kicked his P addiction.
Phillips hung up on us before we had a chance to get him to explain how he managed to keep his ticket as a solicitor despite being bankrupt.
Murphy said the whole situation was ridiculous.
Regardless of what Lyon’s ‘cozy’ bail arrangements were, the fact remained he was on serious charges and had trashed the property he’d rented him.
Aside from turning the place in a den of sexual depravity, Lyon had also left holes in the walls, broken windows, smashed doors… the list goes on.
Lyon would have pornographic DVDs playing round the clock and friends say he’d often masturbate for hours on end, completely oblivious to those coming and going. After Lyon moved in, the property also became a frequent target by the gangs who would turn up at all times of the day and night to collect their pound of flesh.
What Lyon does from here is unclear, but the likelihood of him being back behind bars soon looks fairly certain…
Murphy, meanwhile, just wants his money back. “He’s made one hell of a mess there and I want him to do the right thing for a change and deal with it. Why should I be out of pocket?”
He said he wouldn’t be giving up on recovering the cash from Lyon, even if that meant waiting 12 months.
Lyon is the son of businessman Cliff Lyon and part of the family which once ran the Goodman Fielder Wattie Empire, Lyon had made $5 million by the time he was 25.