Fears elderly couple's killer will soon be free

BELINDA FEEK
Last updated 05:00 23/06/2014
 John and Josie Harrisson
SUPPLIED

EXECUTION KILLING: Te Akau couple John and Josie Harrisson were murdered in their home after being disturbed by burglars.

Margaret Jamieson
FAIRFAX NZ
KEEP THEM JAILED: Margaret Jamieson is nervous one of her parents’ killers could be released on parole soon.

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A woman whose parents were murdered in their Te Akau home 20 years ago is nervous one of their killers will be released on parole.

Leith Rex Ray was 19 and Gresham Kirsten Leith Marsh, 22, when they broke into the home of John and Josie Harrisson during the night of June 1, 1994.

The pair had been on a burglary spree around the Central North Island and after entering the couple's home, one of them coughed, waking John Harrisson, 83, who went to investigate.

When Harrisson threatened to call police, he was shot in the back while his wife, 72, was shot as she lay in bed. Ray and Marsh then mercilessly took turns at shooting the couple.

John Harrisson was shot four times and his wife twice.

The pair were both sentenced to life imprisonment with minimum non-parole periods of 10 years each.

Ray is having his parole hearing next week, but the Harrissons' Auckland-based daughter, Margaret Jamieson, and her husband, Jock, are nervous that his time behind bars might be up.

"We think that there's a possibility that he's ticking all the right boxes and might be released."

Jamieson said Ray had been on work-to-release for about a year - on a farm, she believed, near where he's serving his sentence at Spring Hill Prison.

But she was worried that if he was released he will live in the Waikato or Auckland areas - the two areas where she's pleaded with the parole board not to send him.

Jamieson said the Te Akau community was worried about retribution and did not want him in the Waikato area.

"We're a bit concerned this time around," Jock Jamieson said.

"We think Ray is possibly going to be let out.

"It's only a matter of time before they let him out . . . We would love it if the two of them stayed there for the rest of their natural lives." The couple had endured 20 parole board hearings - twice every 12 months for 10 years - a process he said "re-victimises the victims".

In his latest parole board decision, from January 16 this year, Ray presented as having an "immature personality".

The board noted that he had made good progress on his work to release in the 12 months prior but he needed more time to prove he was not a danger to society.

Despite not disclosing where Ray's farm work was based, the board said it posed a "conundrum" if he was released there due to the victims' and Te Akau community's wishes.

The board said that work was "crucial to his successful reintegration" and if lost would consequently elevate his level of risk.

Marsh will have his next parole hearing in August but he had been making poor progress.

In the board's latest decision - of November last year - it said Marsh had suffered several setbacks, including losing his release to work arrangement which was due to Marsh's "poor decision-making and his inability to respect boundaries".

A psychological report found that he would still pose an "undue risk" to the community if released. 

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- Waikato Times

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