Murder charges mar 'safe' record

ANNA WILLIAMS
Last updated 07:54 28/01/2013
SCOTLAND ST
DEREK FLYNN

Police at the scene of a suspected homicide in Scotland Street Picton.

SCOTT WATSON
JANE SANDERS
SCOTT WATSON: Convicted of the 1998 murders of Ben Smart and Olivia Hope.
Aaron Harvey
Aaron Harvey
John Ericson
John Ericson

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Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman says the Marlborough region has a good reputation for safety, and he would like to keep it that way.

Mr Sowman said incidents such as the death of a woman in Picton earlier this month were not common in Marlborough.

"Marlborough is safe," he said. "This latest incident in Picton had unique circumstances, but over the years we have been seen as a safe destination."

The crime clearance rate was high and Marlborough had a good reputation for safety, he said.

"Blenheim is recognised as a safe town and we want to continue that."

Picton woman Robyn Grace was found by police about 4.30pm on January 13 after a neighbour called police when she heard screaming coming from the house.

A man and a woman were arrested and appeared in the Blenheim District Court the following day, charged with murder.

They were granted name suppression and remanded in custody and were due to appear again today.

The couple are only the ninth and 10th people to be charged with murder in Marlborough in the past 20 years.

Of those 10, two subsequently had their charges changed to manslaughter, and in one death, four people were charged.

Since 1993, three people in Marlborough have been convicted of murder.

Picton man Scott Watson was controversially convicted in 1999 of the murders of Marlborough friends Olivia Hope and Ben Smart, who disappeared in the Marlborough Sounds on January 1, 1998. Watson is serving a life sentence with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years. He is expected to be released in 2016.

Blenheim man John Frederick Ericson killed his wife, Sandra Ericson, in July 1999. Ericson phoned police after the attack and admitted killing her, but later said he had no memory of it.

He admitted to the charge and said he did not doubt he was responsible.

Ericson escaped from Wellington Prison in 2007 while on work detail and was on the run for 26 hours before he was found. He remains in custody.

Ericson has been denied parole multiple times, including last year.

Four men were charged with the murder of Blenheim man Carl MacDonald who was shot with a sawn-off .22 rifle in September 2007 after a dispute outside the Lone Legion clubhouse in Gascoigne St, Blenheim.

A jury found Aaron James Harvey guilty of murder and acquitted his three co-accused. Harvey was sentenced to a minimum of 10 years in prison in 2008.

A man and a woman were charged with murder in separate incidents in 1998 and 2002. Both murder charges were dropped and replaced with charges of manslaughter and infanticide.

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- The Marlborough Express

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