A man who used knives and a spade to kill a woman in her own bedroom while her toddler was nearby will not be released from prison.
The Parole Board say Gareth Lawrence Smither’s current mental state is similar to when he murdered Dunedin woman Karen Jacobs in July 1997 and his risk to the community is far too great.
Jacobs was 26 when she died.
She had been in a relationship and when that ended he planned to kill the young mum.
Smither had been discharged from a psychiatric hospital just two days before the brutal murder.
He stabbed Jacobs 33 times – mainly in the neck area – and then bashed her repeatedly with a garden spade.
Jacobs’ 2-year-old daughter was in the next room at the time.
Her mother Maureen Watson found her body.
Smither was sentenced to life in prison.
The now-48-year-old appeared before the Parole Board on December 2.
In June he was refused parole, with the board saying that while he was “working towards a sensible and appropriate reintegration plan” he remained an undue risk to the community.
In the latest decision Parole Board chairman Sir Ron Young said that risk remained.
He said since Smither was last seen he had been working through a reintegration programme and living in a self-care setting within Christchurch Men’s Prison.
“He is employed as a cleaner in the administration building, which is a job of responsibility within the prison,” said Sir Young.
“Mr Smither has long-term mental health issues and they continue to plague him.
“Since we saw him in May 2019 he has had approximately one day per week absence from work due to his suspiciousness and paranoia.”
Sir Ron said more recently, since about November, Smither’s mental state had improved.
However was not enough to satisfy the board that he could be safely released.
“We have concluded that, primarily because of Mr Smither’s mental health, he is not well enough currently to be released,” he said.
“The problems we identify are that Mr Smither, over quite an extended period, has been low in mood and has stopped working.
“Clearly, that difficulty was more apparent during winter but seems to have continued on.
“Even today, Mr Smither before us accepted that he had regular days off work when his paranoia intervened.”
Sir Ron said a particular episode relating to Smither’s mental health had also caused the board concern.
He did not elaborate on the episode but said it was recent.
The board was told by a psychiatric expert overseeing the murderer that it was “difficult to know what to make of that” but they felt it did not indicate a more substantial decline in his mental health.
“His current mental health has also a parallel with his mental health at the time of the murder,” said Sir Ron.
“We acknowledge Mr Smither’s recent improvement in the sense that he has apparently been less often away from work because of his mental health vulnerability.
“We look forward to a period of time when Mr Smither is able to better cope with his mental health and has a reducing need to take time off and can show over an extended period that he is able to cope.”
Jacobs’ family also appeared before the board and begged for them to keep her killer as far away from them as possible.
Her mother has attended each of Smither’s parole hearings.
“They strongly object to Mr Smither being released to Christchurch,” said Sir Ron.
“The victim’s family has some connection with Christchurch; there are visits and family members live there.”
Ultimately though, that would not be an issue until at least August 2020 when the board would reassess Smither’s release plan.
“Given Mr Smither’s vulnerable mental health and the uncertainty of appropriate accommodation we are satisfied he remains an undue risk,” Sir Ron concluded.