She was sentenced to life in prison for ordering the murder of a man she claims she never met. Now, after serving 15 years behind bars, she makes the case for her innocence.
Gone Fishing, a fascinating true crime podcast from New Zealand, focuses on one Gail Maney and the crime she says she didn't commit. The Auckland woman was convicted of putting out a hit on Deane Fullers-Sandy. According to police, Fullers-Sandy had sold drugs to Gail Maney, then robbed her home and stole back the drugs. Maney, enraged by this, ordered a hit on Fullers-Sandy. Stephen Stone, a friend of Maney’s, was the one to carry out the alleged hit. Stone also later killed another woman, Leah Romany Stephens, who had allegedly witnessed the first murder.
Yet Maney maintains her innocence. In fact, she's not even sure Fullers-Sandy was murdered. And as Gone Fishing points out, there are troubling questions about the witness reports and investigation that led to Maney's conviction.
But let’s pause for a moment and look at how this podcast began. Amy Maas, at the time a news editor with no experience in podcasting, went to visit an Auckland prison, meaning to write a story on the rehabilitation of prisoners. While there, she met Gail Maney.
Maney had become an excellent cook during her time in jail. In fact, she hoped to write a cookbook once she was released. Maas, who was quite charmed by the convict, asked a warden why she was in prison. She was shocked to hear that Maney was convicted of murder.
When Maas learned that Maney had been released, she tried to track her down—a task that proved difficult, as Maney kept a low profile and had virtually no online presence. Eventually, however, Maas found Maney—and convinced her to discuss her case.
In August 1989, 21-year-old Deane Fuller-Sandys told his mom that he was leaving for the day to go fishing. The young man was never seen again. When Maney heard through town gossip that Fuller-Sandys had disappeared, she believed that he fell overboard and drowned, because his fishing spot was known for rough, dangerous waters.
Eight years later, on her son’s birthday in 1997, Gail Maney was arrested for conspiring to murder Fuller-Sandys. The police claimed that Maney had hired suspected gang member and hitman Stephen Stone to commit the crime because Fuller-Sandys had stolen her drugs. Maney had long been upfront about her former drug abuse and time as a sex worker, but she maintained that she never crossed paths with the victim.
The police claimed that Fuller-Sandys was murdered in Maney’s garage. Eight other people allegedly saw Fuller-Sandys get shot, first by Stone, and then by others, including Maney’s younger brother, Colin. One of the alleged onlookers was a woman named Leah Stephens.
Five days after Fuller-Sandys went missing, Stephens, who was working in the red light district on Queen Street at the time, also disappeared. Her remains were found three years later in 1992. Police claimed that Stone had raped and killed her because she had witnessed the Fuller-Sandys murder days earlier—and that Maney knew about it.
Gone Fishing explores the many twists an turns of the case, comparing Maney’s side of the story with police reports and witness testimonies that led to her conviction in court, but which may not hold true today. In a recent interview with hosts Amy Maas and Adam Dunning, Mass reflects on the podcast series and the questions that remain:
To this day some genuine mysteries remain about who did what to whom, why, and even where. It also raises important questions about police practices, and the shortcomings of jury trials. But, like any piece of journalism, it's the human side of things that really held our attention.
Maney spent a total of 15 years in prison. She has been free since July 2017 but must abide by a strict curfew. Stephen Stone is still in prison and his appeals have been unsuccessful.
You can listen to the story behind Maney’s quest for redemption in Gone Fishing. All episodes of the eight-part podcast, which premiered in late June, are available to stream on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, or via the podcast's RSS feed.
Featured photos: Gone Fishing