An 80-year-old minister has told how he spent an hour
persuading a mental health patient to cherish the gift of
life and not jump, as they both stood 192m above the ground
outside the Sky Tower.
The patient demanded to speak to a Jehovah's Witness after
scaling a safety fence and threatening to jump during an
organised 3pm walk on the viewing deck on Saturday.
Police called Graham Browne, a minister at the Avondale
Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses, and soon after, he was
at the top of the tower trying to talk the man down by
reading from the Bible.
Mr Browne is adamant he did not do anything extraordinary.
But he recounted the exceptional circumstances of his part in
"The police called to say they had this situation and would I
be prepared to help," he said. "I didn't hesitate a bit; they
were saying it was urgent."
But "to be honest, I didn't think I'd be hanging out on the
edge of the Sky Tower."
Mr Browne asked a friend, also a member of the church, to go
"As we drove, my friend was asking, 'What are you going to
say?' What came into my mind very quickly was that a life's
at stake, so I'm going to try to get him to recognise that
life is a gift and it's very precious and something to be
The man had left the Waikato District Health Board's Henry
Rongomau Bennett mental health centre in Hamilton hours
before joining the Sky Tower tour.
Once on the platform, he walked around without safety
restraints and refused to go back inside.
Mr Browne was taken up the tower and met by police officers
at the viewing deck.
About an hour later, he was fitted with a safety harness and
had to empty his pockets and take off his wedding ring.
Officers taped his glasses to his face and attached his Bible
to his harness with a separate cord so there was no chance of
him dropping anything from the tower.
"I went out there and the negotiator was sitting there
talking to him. I read the words from the Bible again and
said, 'These are the words you've got to remember.'
"I started talking to him about life being a gift and if he
gave somebody a gift he would hope they would treat it with
"I said, 'I understand you believe in a creator. Please
consider that and treat this life you have with respect'."
Mr Browne read one of the Bible passages the man had
mentioned - John 3.16, which says: "God loved the world so
much that he gave his one and only son so that everyone who
believes in him will not perish but have eternal life."
Said Mr Browne: "I read those words to him. I read them about
20 times ... I could see him sitting on the edge with his
back to me and I kept asking him, 'Please turn around. I
would like to see your face'. He wasn't paying any attention
"Then I realised he was sitting there on the edge waving his
arms around, and talking. I knew he couldn't be talking to
the people on the ground because they were more than 200m
"I've seen people like him in other situations and they've
got voices in their heads - they're hearing things.
"I said to the negotiator, 'There are evil spirits talking to
him ... and we've got to beat them'. So I just kept telling
him to stop listening to those voices.
"I read the words from the Bible again and said, 'These are
the words you've got to remember ... That's the truth, that's
from God, not these evil spirits talking to you'."
Eventually, the man pulled one of his legs up over the edge
and looked as though he was going to move back.
Mr Browne and the negotiator pleaded with him to come to
"Eventually he moved and then he stood up. We encouraged him
to come a bit closer. As he started to shuffle along I said,
'It's lovely to see you. Now I'm going to be able to show you
what's written here'."
The man came close to where Mr Browne was standing in a caged
enclosure by the viewing-deck doors, but would not go all the
"Then he started telling me his story. He'd been visited by
some Jehovah's Witnesses and he'd told them to go away and he
was so, so sorry he'd done that.
"He wanted to be forgiven for that and I said, 'Of course
you're forgiven - we all do things like that'."
The pair chatted about religion and the man seemed to calm
"And then something came into my head, I said, 'Can I please
interrupt you for a moment? I've got to tell you I'm scared
stiff'. He replied, 'Oh, I'm so sorry you're scared'.
"I said, 'No, I'm actually scared for you. I'm hooked on
here, I'm safe. But you're moving around and ... if you make
a false step, you're gone'.
"A short time later he said, 'Okay, I'll come in now'. I will
always remember the words," said Mr Browne.
The patient walked to safety and police officers handcuffed
him and took him away.
Said Mr Browne: "It was a relief. All the time I was up there
I was perfectly calm, no question."
After a cup of tea, he returned home.
"I just gave thanks how wonderful it was that it worked out.
I was so impressed by the way the police were all there, just
doing their bit.
"It was a wonderful team effort - they did a magnificent job.
"I just did my bit. I obviously fit this poor man's
Several police officers, including Auckland district
commander Mike Clement, later contacted Mr Browne to thank
him for his assistance.
Yesterday, relieving area commander Vaughn Graham told the
Herald Mr Browne had built up a rapport with the man which
resulted in the patient being taken safely into custody for
"Despite the wind, the height, the cold and the difficult
task, Mr Browne did a wonderful job."