The man who murdered 15-year-old girl Tania Burgess, stabbing her 48 times, has been granted parole and will leave prison.
The parents of Tania Burgess, who was murdered at the age of 15 in 2005, have described the “hopelessness” they feel over her killer’s release from prison.
He will re-enter the community under “intensive supervise” on August 1, having been granted parole by the New South Wales State Parole Authority yesterday.
The killer can only be identified as DL, as he was 16 years old – a minor – at the time of the crime. He is now in his thirties.
“It’s hard to believe,” Tania’s mother, Mandy, told sunrise on Friday morning.
“When I saw his face on screen in court yesterday – the last time I saw him, he was a 16-year-old youth. He’s now a man. I just felt so much emotion inside the courtroom. I stared at his face. (I felt) anger, frustration, hopelessness and helplessness.
“It’s really been like riding as back seat passengers in a car for the last 17 years. We had the most beautiful 15-year-old daughter, and she was taken away from us. And now DL gets to have his life back, and he gets to have a second chance at life.
“We can’t do that for Tania. So I guess I hold a lot of angriness after yesterday, after seeing him. It was such a hard thing to do, to see his face from him again.
“I know that’s still the same face that attacked me four weeks earlier, before he killed Tania. As time goes by, I hope I won’t think about it so much, but at the moment it’s quite raw.”
As painful as the DL’s looming release is for them, Ms Burgess and her husband, Chris, said they understood the logic of the parole decision.
Leaving before his sentence has been completely served means DL will be monitored after leaving prison. The alternative was to allow him to serve the remainder of his sentence behind bars before entering the community unsupervised in a year.
“It’s about getting him reintegrated into society,” Mr Burgess said.
“It’s all about making sure he is monitored and all the appropriate things have been done, rather than letting him loose and nobody knowing what will happen.
“We don’t want this to happen again.”
“The State Parole Authority has decided to grant DL parole with intensive supervision and strict conditions, including 24/7 electronic monitoring, is imperative for the protection of the community,” the Parole Authority said in a statement last night.
“Justice James Wood AO QC began the hearing by acknowledging the presence in court of Tania Burgess’s parents, and extended them the SPA’s deepest sympathies for the terrible loss of their daughter.
“He said in reaching its decision to grant parole, the SPA had accepted the expert opinion of the Serious Offenders Review Council, which strongly advised that with only 13 months left on DL’s sentence, parole with supervise was now ‘critical’.”
Justice Wood said the alternative “would only increase the risk to the community”.
The Serious Offenders Review Council’s advice said the priority in DL’s case should be “supervision to foster his reintegration and the protection of the public”.
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DL will be required to give Community Corrections daily updates on all of his movements. He must also comply with orders to engage with forensic psychological treatment, and adhere to his obligations under the NSW Police Child Protection Register.
He will be required to submit to electronic monitoring and barred from “contacting, communicating with, watching, stalking, harassing or intimidating” Tania’s family.
Tania was walking home from school on the Central Coast on July 19, 2005 when DL – a boy she barely knew – followed and attacked her, stabbing her 48 times before running off.
Her parents heard the end of the attack and hit to help Tania, who died in their arms.
DL – whom Tania had identified with her dying words – was found shortly afterwards, and was subsequently convicted of the murder.
He was sentenced to 22 years in prison, with a non-parole period of 17 years. That sentence was reduced by four years on appeal.
He has reportedly shown no remorse for the crime.
Speaking to 2GB radio host Ben Fordham earlier this week, Ms Burgess said DL’s release would be a “shock”.
“It’s hard to comprehend that, first of all, DL has never really admitted any kind of remorse. And yet his time is up. He may be set free,” she said.
“He will never own the crime that he did. He is virtually unnamed as DL. (He’ll) just wipe 17 years off and start a new life, yet we lost our daughter.”
“It’s hard to know what to say to you, Mandy, when you consider what you’re going through,” said Fordham.
“The reason his identity is protected is because he was 16 years of age at the time. But this was an adult crime. This was a horrendous, despicable act, where he took your daughter’s life away in an instant, for absolutely no reason.”
He argued the community would “be in danger from this person”, as DL has spent his entire adult life “in jail, surrounded by other criminals and killers”.
“It is hard to think that he will be out there,” Ms Burgess agreed.
“To wake up one morning and hear that he has hurt somebody else in the community, and put another family through what we have been through… I could not possibly imagine, in this universe, for that to happen.”
She went on to reflect on her “beautiful” daughter, and how her life may have unfolded.
“You can only dream what kind of life she might have had,” said Ms Burgess.
“She was such a beautiful, caring, loving teenager. She could have maybe become a nurse, or some kind of health community worker. It’s hard to say. She loved her ballet. She she might have been a ballerina.
“You can only let your imagination run really wild. But she was taken away from us. She was just a girl. She was just starting to bloom at 15. She was stolen.
“I try to block out those horrible images of what we saw that day, and remember Tania for who she was. Not what we saw, not what he did, but for what she was at the time. She was a beautiful, loving, caring girl, just starting her life from her.”
“The reality is that he should never be released,” Fordham said of her killer.
“Why should he get a second chance? Why should he, after what he did?” she replied.
“If he had some kind of mental illness or something – not to make excuses for it, but to explain why – then you could say, ‘OK, he had a mental illness. It was a psychopathic move,’ or whatever. But we have nothing, absolutely nothing to go on.
“No remorse. No apology.”
During the DL’s trial, the court heard from three psychiatrists who testified that the 16-year-old was suffering from an anxiety attack, a psychosis or the early stages of schizophrenia at the time of the murder.
He also heard testimony from a former inmate, who’d spoken to DL, that suggested he’d committed the crime because Tania had rejected him.
The two teenagers did not know each other well, but caught the same bus home from school.
As mentioned, there are only two possibilities going forward: either DL is granted parole this week and monitored, or he walks free at the end of his sentence in a year without supervision.
Fordham asked Ms Burgess which of those options she would prefer, while noting that she “shouldn’t have to face that dilemma”.
“Honestly Ben, it’s one of the hardest things to say,” she told him.
“If they need to release him – to see what he’s going to be like in the community, with a bracelet on, having to check in with a parole officer, it’s probably better for the community if that happens than if he just walks out free in 12 months’ time.”
Ms Burgess described the prospect of DL being released unmonitored as “the biggest frightening thing”.
“Even if he did spend the next 12 months in jail, didn’t make the parole, 12 months goes really quick. Not much is going to change in 12 months,” she said.
“He could go anywhere he wanted to go. And the people around him where he’s living, they don’t know him. They do not know his name, or what he’s done. He’s just another man in their community… it’s really frightening.”
“He shouldn’t be getting a second chance,” Fordham said.
“But we know the way the justice system works. It’s not a justice system, it’s a legal system. And this scumbag should never be given another opportunity to walk around with the rest of us, and to do to another family what he did with your family.”
“Can you imagine facing that dilemma?” he asked his listeners after the interview.
“What would you prefer? Would you prefer that he gets out this week and is monitored, or would you prefer that he gets out in 12 months’ time and is not monitored at all? I think that everyone knows option three is what we want: he never gets out.
“We’re never going to know his real name, never going to know his true identity, never going to know where he’s living. You will never know if he’s living next door to you. And they call that justice.”