Dunedin killer still unfit for release: Parole Board

Gareth Lawrence Smither leaves court in 1997. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Gareth Lawrence Smither leaves court in 1997. PHOTO: ODT FILES
A man who killed a woman in her Dunedin home while her 2-year-old daughter was in the room next door is still considered unfit for release – after 22 years in prison.

Gareth Lawrence Smither (47) had no convictions to his name in July 1997 when he murdered Karen Jacobs.

He has been behind bars ever since and was seen by the Parole Board last month at Christchurch Men's Prison.

Smither used knives and a spade to kill Ms Jacobs while daughter, Georgina, was in the adjoining room.

Her battered body was found by her mother, Maureen Watson.

The Parole Board noted Smither was a minimum-security inmate and had been living in a self-care unit for the last year.

He had previously worked as a cleaner in the jail's admin building and the board heard more recently he had been working outside the wire.

Karen Rachel Jacobs was killed in 1997. Photo: Supplied
Karen Rachel Jacobs was killed in 1997. Photo: Supplied

Panel convenor Sir Ron Young said there had also been “a number of escorted releases to go shopping in the community over the last eight months”.

And there were plans for overnight stays outside the confines of the prison, dependent on Corrections' authorisation.

At last month's hearing Smither accepted he was not ready for release.

“All in all we think Mr Smither is working towards a sensible and appropriate reintegration plan,” Sir Ron said.

“But we also commend him for not rushing that possibility.”

The board, he said, were reassured by the confirmation that mental-health services had a plan in place for Smither when he was eventually paroled.

“We think the path ahead for him is clear,” Sir Ron said.

Smither previously expressed remorse ‘‘for the terrible actions he took which deprived his former partner of her life’’ but the mother has continued to oppose his release.

The Parole Board will see the prisoner again by December. 

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