A man convicted of one of Canterbury’s most high profile murders will be released from prison next month after convincing the Parole Board he is no longer a risk to the community.
Timothy Taylor was sentenced to life in prison after he was found guilty of murdering Lisa Blakie in February 2000.
He been locked up for more that 20 years and has been refused parole eight times in the past – but today the board agreed to release him from prison in less than a month.
The 20-year-old was killed as she hitchhiked from Christchurch to Greymouth.
Her body was found on Waitangi Day, weighted down by a boulder in the river near Arthur’s Pass.
Taylor, now 51, has always denied murdering Blakie.
He is taking his case to the Criminal Cases Review Commission – with the support of Blakie’s family.
He became eligible for parole in 2012 but has been refused an early release each time.
Until today, the killer has never been able to satisfy the board that he would not pose an undue risk to the safety of the community if he was released.
Today he appeared before a Parole Board panel convened by chairman Sir Ron Young and spoke about his journey from crime, gangs, drugs and addiction and his commitment to his future.
The Herald attended today’s hearing.
When Taylor appeared last year it emerged he had been in trouble in prison including attempting to introduce contraband.
He had also had ongoing issues with “gambling activity”.
At the time the board recommended that Taylor should “direct his attention to his rule-breaking tendencies”.
Today he explained that he has now been sober for more than 23 years and drug free for 14 months.
He had triumphed over “gate fever” that had seen him “self sabotage” each time he was close to a parole hearing.
He said the anxiety and fear around hearings pushed him to make bad choices and get in trouble in prison.
However, he was now focused on his future.
“My head space wasn’t in the right place… I was probably angry with everyone and myself for letting everyone down,” he said.
“But that all changed… I moved to another unit [in prison] and I reflected on myself, I got to start focusing on my kids, my grandkids, myself, my support people.
“Every time I have come to the Parole Board I have let you down, every time there’s been misconduct or something negative but while I was in this unit I started working on myself, staying in my own bubble.”
He was working outside the wire on a farm and that kept him busy during the day.
At night he opted to be locked up early and he kept away from bad influences and those in prison who had been part of his self sabotage in the past.
Taylor explained how he turned down drugs repeatedly over Christmas and the New Year period and was “focused” on improving himself.
“I want this now, I want to go home.
“I don’t want to get involved in that stuff anymore… I said no straight away… I isolated myself away from all of that, I kept myself safe.”
Taylor said he was excited for his future and planned to spend as much time as he could with his three adult daughters and five grandchildren.
He knew it would be a challenge on the outside staying away from drugs, gangs and old mates who may still have antisocial lifestyles.
But he assured the board he was planning to take his new life “day by day” and work through issues as soon as they arose.
“Baby steps,” he said.
“I definitely am not going down the path of an old past… I have to be prepared and keep myself safe.
“It’s about the future, taking things day by day and keeping away from the negative things – mixing with the right crowd of people… I know it’s not going to be easy.
“And if I feel that I’m going back down a road of a past, that’s where I’ve got to be open with my support people and talk and let them know I’m not travelling well.
“It’s a whole new path for me…. I am an addict but I now see the consequences… I just have to keep myself safe… I can’t put any rule breakers in the friend category.
“I just need to take every day as it comes and manage it properly… it’s about what I am doing and doing it correctly.”
Sir Ron Young said it was time for Taylor to be released on parole and carve out a new life for himself – but he would be subject to strict conditions for the rest of his life.
One of those conditions was a curfew from 10pm to 6am, but that would be reviewed at a monitoring hearing in October.
Taylor will be released on April 7 and move to a residential community home for a start.
He thanked the board “very much” and said he was “humbled” by the positive feedback he heard at the hearing.
“I’ve been working really hard in the last 12 months so to hear that, it’s mindblowing,” he said.
Lisa Blakie’s family were told of the decision shortly after the hearing concluded.
Her father Doug, now believes Taylor, while involved in the murder, did not physically kill his daughter.
Previous parole hearings detailed Taylor’s other offending including dishonesty convictions and rape.
While Taylor maintains he did not kill Blakie, police are adamant they got the right man.
“There is no evidence indicating the involvement of anyone else other than Tim Taylor in the abduction and murder of Lisa Blakie,” said Detective Inspector Greg Murton previously.
Any “credible” evidence provided to police to suggest otherwise would be “closely looked at”.
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