Russell Blackstock

Russell Blackstock is a senior reporter at the Herald on Sunday.

Thrill-killer shown leniency at parole hearing

Decision over next hearing for murderer angers victims' family

Margaret and John Jamieson say Marsh should never be released. Photo / Doug Sherring
Margaret and John Jamieson say Marsh should never be released. Photo / Doug Sherring

The daughter of an elderly couple slain in a brutal double murder is furious one of the killers has been shown leniency at a parole hearing.

Margaret Jamieson's parents, John, 82, and Josie Harrisson, 72, were shot repeatedly in their Te Akau, Waikato, home in June, 1994.

Their murderers, Gresham Marsh and Leith Ray, are serving life sentences for the crimes. They told police they wanted to see what it was like to kill someone and watch them die.

Gresham Marsh
Gresham Marsh

Jamieson is outraged over a ruling at Marsh's latest parole hearing, on November 12. It was decided that his next appearance, a year later, would be brought forward three months because he had completed a drug programme.

Jamieson, from Swanson in West Auckland, said she and her husband, John, were particularly angry after it emerged that Marsh, 41, had recently been involved in violent incidents behind bars.

At present he is in Christchurch Men's Prison.

"The decision to give this man another hearing in nine months' time is disgusting," the 66-year-old grandmother said.

"This is a classic example of the system being skewed in favour of the offender. Marsh has proven time again he still cannot control himself."

Documents from the hearing reveal that during the previous 12 months Marsh had some "setbacks".

These included having a release-to-work arrangement terminated because of his poor decision-making, his inability to respect boundaries and also his "difficulties in understanding the complexities of normal social discourse and how to respond appropriately".

It was also noted that in December last year Marsh was removed from his drug programme following an altercation with another prisoner. He was later reinstated. He had been named in four incident reports for being involved in a fight with another prisoner.

Fearing for his safety, he was placed in the at-risk unit, where he displayed aggressive and threatening behaviour.

Parole Board chairman Warwick Gendall, QC, insisted that the decision to grant Marsh another hearing in nine months was not taken lightly.

"The board has not minimised in any way the release-to-work arrangement which was terminated in March 2012 or the incidents in October this year which led to Gresham Marsh being removed from the self-care units," Gendall said.

"When making decisions about, or in any way relating to, the release of an offender, the paramount consideration for the board in every case is the safety of the community.

"Because an offender is scheduled to be considered at a particular time does not in any way mean that, for that reason, the privilege of parole would be granted."

Sensible Sentencing Trust spokeswoman Ruth Money said the organisation was backing an upcoming government review of the parole system. "At the moment, a prisoner can appeal a Parole Board decision but victims and their families cannot."

- Herald on Sunday

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