Graham John Wright
NZ Herald story here
Parole Board decision documented here
Christchurch Star story here
A murderer who stabbed a woman 34 times, and was considered too dangerous for parole is being granted leave from prison to pursue a fresh relationship. Graham John Wright was sentenced to life imprisonment a decade ago for murdering his sister-in-law, Donna Wright, in her South New Brighton home.
He was refused parole in September last year. The Parole Board did not think Wright was safe to be released, considering his "original, appalling offences" and the need to be cautious in the public's interest. However, it has recommended temporary releases so he can develop his new relationship with a woman prison visitor "in a more natural surrounding".
The victim's family, which thought it had succeeded in keeping Wright behind bars for another year, was shocked to hear of the arrangement. "If he is not fit for release, why is he being allowed out for these visits?" said Wendy Finch, the victim's older sister. "Is it shagging rights? He still hasn't said sorry for what he has done."
Wright was given four hours leave on New Year's Eve. He is due to be released again tomorrow for six hours in Christchurch and Whitecliffs, central Canterbury. The board said temporary releases were about building bridges for reintegrating an offender into the community. "It would be unusual if someone who has spent a long time in prison and is working towards a release wasn't given temporary releases," said board spokesman Steve Rendle.
Petite, 28-year-old Donna Wright valiantly fought for her life on November 21, 1994, but it was not enough to fend off Wright's prolonged and frenzied attack. She was stabbed 34 times and battered about the head. The trail of blood showed the attack happened in four areas of her home. Her body was found by her 11-year-old son, who climbed through an open toilet window after arriving home from school to a locked front door just after 3pm.
Donna Wright split from her husband, Tony Wright, eight months before her murder. His ACC beneficiary brother, Graham Wright, was keen for the pair to reconcile. Graham Wright also had a brief relationship with Donna Wright earlier, having befriended her as a single parent. Tensions rose after her marriage break-up when she began a new relationship with another man. Wright denied murder and argued that he was provoked. Defence witnesses said he had mental health problems from chemical inhalation while boat-building.
But a jury found him guilty within three hours of deliberation and he was sentenced to life imprisonment in December 1995. In prison, Wright has studied small business management and worked towards a National Certificate in Employment Skills. He learnt to operate a forklift and attended anger management and anti-violence programmes.
"He (Wright) has been living rent-free for 10 years, given three meals a day. He has had the best medical care one can receive," said Finch. "He has re-educated himself and now he has got a new woman in his life." But what galls the most are Wright's regular sessions with a psychologist since 1998, focused on stress management, moods, impulsive behaviour and lack of empathy. Finch said the family had struggled to get ongoing psychological help for her nephew, now 22, and his sister, 18.
"ACC has been unable to help as the children didn't witness the actual crime. Two children who come home and find their mother dead deserve some kind of help. The 22-year-old is still traumatised. He gets very angry and the next thing we're crying together because he misses his mum." ACC spokesman Fraser Folster said ACC could not fund trauma counselling for a "bad fright", such as finding a body. However, other agencies like Victim Support could.
Wright had been a fatherly figure to the children before he lashed out and killed their mother, said Finch. "Wright has taken everything from them and hasn't acknowledged what he has done, nor made any attempt to make amends to them. He has shown little or no remorse," she said. Finch told the parole board she had grave doubts that Wright had been rehabilitated and feared for the public's safety if he were released. Wright's parole bid was supported by his brother and new partner.
When the board rang with its decision, Finch was relieved Wright had been refused parole. It was not until the written decision arrived that she learned he would be allowed out to visit his partner. "To me they are releasing him. I don't understand it," said Finch. "We continue to suffer because of his actions. Not a day goes by that we don't think of Donna and what we have lost." Rendle said the board was aware of the distress felt by the victim's family, but the inmate was on the road to release and this was being done gradually.
"Establishing a sound and solid relationship with potential support people is a very important part of the reintegration process. It is logical to test that in a natural environment," Rendle said. Although the board made recommendations, the timing of temporary releases was decided by the Corrections Department.
National Party law and order spokesman Simon Power said the wishes of the victim's family should be paramount in this situation. "You are either safe to be released or you're not," he said. "The parole board's initial reaction was that he was not and so the justification for temporary release seems very thin indeed."
Date of Birth
1956 (D.O.B. is approximate)
Darfield / St Albans
Three Strikes Status
Sentenced to life (ten years) in December 1995
Parole refused February 2010
However has already been granted temporary release periods
Has another hearing February 2011
Additional Photos & Files
Associated Media Links Victim's family angry murderer allowed out for love
OFFENCES / CONVICTIONS
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