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Man admits to planning 1997 murder

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 10/05/2016

A Dunedin man convicted of murdering his ex-girlfriend with a spade in 1997 has finally admitted to planning the killing after they broke up, the parole board says.

Gareth Lawrence Smither, 44, was in 1997 convicted of the murder of Karen Jacobs - during which he stabbed her 33 times with knives and a spade - and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Since then, he has moved between prison and hospital multiple times, owing to an extensive history of mental illness and long list of conditions.

In a newly issued decision, the parole board said Smither had in the last 18 months accepted the killing was planned and had begun to show genuine empathy.

"Mr Smither has admitted planning to kill his victim after accepting that their relationship had finally ended," it said.

"He has also admitted taking weapons to the scene."

But it said while he had also accepted the seriousness of past sexual offending and had undergone treatment for his stalking behaviour, it was still too risky to release him.

"What we are clear about is that a decision cannot be made on Mr Smither's safe release until he has been tested over time and in a variety of situations. Without that, he poses an undue risk to the safety of the community."

A report found him to still be a moderate risk of both violent and sexual re-offending.

Since May 2013 Smither has gradually been given ground leave from the hospital, including up to two hours ground unescorted and up to eight hours leave in Christchurch when escorted by staff.

He was given "special patient" status requiring him to stay at the mental facility, but that has since lapsed and he is currently there voluntarily.

The board said it was not clear whether Smither should be returned to prison or treated under the mental health umbrella.

At his last hearing in 2014, Smither was found to have used synthetic cannabis, then used another patient's urine to beat a drug test.

"The board expressed concern that notwithstanding the years of treatment he had received, Mr Smither continued to exhibit the type of deceitful and dishonest behaviour which he displayed at the time of his index offending," the new decision said.

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