Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Kiwi in cold case murder jailed for 14 years

Grant David Mitchell has been sentenced after admitting killing Nella Celeste Poli, a 19-year-old barmaid in Sydney in May 1987. Photo / NZPA
Grant David Mitchell has been sentenced after admitting killing Nella Celeste Poli, a 19-year-old barmaid in Sydney in May 1987. Photo / NZPA

A Kiwi who admitting murdering his New Zealand-born girlfriend in Sydney 24 years after the crime has been sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Grant Mitchell strangled 19-year-old barmaid Nella Celeste Poli, 19, during an argument in their Sydney cottage in 1987.

Mitchell was handed a 14-year prison sentence with a minimum non-parole period of 10 years in the New South Wales Supreme Court today.

A kangaroo is credited as the catalyst for Mitchell's confession after it jumped in front of him and caused him to crash his motorbike on a road in Far North Queensland.

Mitchell's injuries resulted in him owing Cairns Base Hospital $11,000. He could not claim the costs from the public health system because he had used a fake name since fleeing New South Wales 24 year earlier.

Without any way to pay the fines, Mitchell went on the run again and eventually turned himself in.

Ms Poli, who grew up in Avondale, Auckland, had been living in Sydney for only a couple of years when she was killed. The young barmaid was found dead in her bed by her mother, who went to check on her after she failed to report for work.

She had a 20cm burn mark around her neck, leading police to believe she had been strangled with a piece of rope or cord.

Mitchell disappeared the day Ms Poli was killed.

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