Martin Harrod.
Martin Harrod.

Grandmother killer out of prison

CONVICTED killer Martin Harrod will be released from prison 22 years after he stabbed an 89-year-old grandmother to death when she caught him breaking into her North Mackay home.

And on the eve of his release, he has unsuccessfully appealed his conviction and sentence.

The murder of grandmother Gretchen Christobel Smith in her North Mackay granny flat on Good Friday, April 1, 1988, shocked Mackay and instilled terror in the hearts of people.

Martin Harrod, then aged 28 and recently arrived from Sydney, broke into Mrs Smith’s flat in Daniel Street between 11pm on March 31 and 9am on April 1. Her body was found by her son-in-law.

Mrs Smith was stabbed twice in the chest and had a stab wound in the neck; a 15cm knife was found in a rubbish bin and was believed to have been the murder weapon.

There had been reports of a prowler in the area that night and a bicycle was found near where a man was seen; after the Daily Mercury published pictures of the bicycle the owner came forward to say it had been stolen that night.

Fear spread throughout the city after a second attack on a woman on April 14, by a man who fitted the description of the prowler “to a T”.

The woman, 24, had just walked across the Forgan Bridge when she was attacked from behind, dragged to an area behind a service station on Barnes Creek Road and a man tried to rape her. She broke free and ran to a nearby house.

The manhunt continued for six weeks and extended to southern states. Eventually Martin Harrod was detained at Mildura, in northern Victoria, and was escorted back to Mackay.

A man and woman who spoke to Harrod after the murder then told police that, on the night of the killing, he said: “I did a bad thing last night. Promise not the tell anyone. I killed someone last night. If she hadn’t seen my face I wouldn’t have done it.”

Harrod was under the influence of alcohol and drugs at the time of the murder.

He pleaded guilty to the murder in the Supreme Court in Mackay in August, 1988, and was given the mandatory sentence of life.

His defence barrister told the court Harrod came from an unfortunate background, had little schooling and almost no family life.

Despite pleading guilty, and receiving the only sentence available by law, Harrod sought an extension of time to appeal before the Court of Appeal, which dismissed both applications yesterday.

Justice Richard Chesterman said yesterday Harrod’s “real complaint appeared to be that he remains in prison despite seven years having elapsed since he became eligible for release on parole”.

A Corrective Services spokesman said late yesterday: “He was granted parole, not to be released before this Monday, February 7, and dependent on the availability of accommodation. He is still in prison.”

Harrod is now aged 50. It is unknown where he will live on his release from prison.

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