A cold-blooded killer who shot three men dead will be released from prison after 38 years despite pleas from his victims’ families that he die behind bars.
The New South Wales State Parole Authority (SPA) granted Berwyn Rees’s release on Thursday and he will be set free as soon as March 7 under conditions including that he not possess a firearm.
Relatives of each of the three men Rees murdered four decades ago had been told earlier this month to prepare for him being allowed back into the community.
Rees will re-enter a world he will barely recognise – there were no mobile phones, no internet and no cable television when he was last free.
When the 69-year-old went into custody in 1980 Malcolm Fraser was prime minister, the first space shuttle had not taken flight and $1 notes had not been replaced by coins.
Tracy James, whose father Raymond was shot dead by Rees when she was a toddler, was in the hearing room within the Sydney West Trial Courts complex at Parramatta when the decision to release him was made.
Tracy James (left) attending a parole hearing for Berwyn Rees, who murdered her father Raymond in 1977. ‘This time I’ve resigned myself to the fact that he’s definitely getting out,’ she told Daily Mail Australia. ‘I’ve set the bar low, knowing that he’s going to be released’
Gun-mad triple murderer Berwyn Rees, now 69, has been called ‘one of the most cold-blooded killers ever to enter a New South Wales prison.’ His senseless crimes shocked the nation four decades ago and he is now set to be released into a modern world he will barely recognise
Raymond James, pictured with his toddler daughter Tracy, was 26 when he was shot in the back of the head by triple murderer Berwyn Rees in 1977. His killer has been granted parole
Sergeant Keith Haydon, 37, had been a police officer for 16 years when he was murdered by Berwyn Rees near Newcastle in 1980. He was shot three times in the body and once in the head
She has previously told Daily Mail Australia that seeing Rees appear on audio-visual link before the parole authority made her feel physically ill.
‘It’s very strange looking at a man that murdered your father and caused so much devastation in so many families,’ she said.
Following the decision Corrective Services NSW Acting Commissioner Rosemary Caruana said community safety was the body’s ‘number one priority’.
‘We will be applying the highest level of community supervision to this offender and he will remain under our watch for the rest of his life,’ Ms Caruana said.
Rees will be subject to 15 conditions including not possessing or using a firearm and not contacting, communicating with, watching, stalking, harassing or intimidating his victims’ families.
He must not frequent the local government areas of the Central Coast, Ryde City and Hills Shire.
‘The offender is subject to strict oversight and any breach will be automatically reported to SPA,’ Ms Caruana said.
‘He has significant health and mobility issues, and post-release plans include the support of disability services.
‘There are sound post-release plans in place including suitable, stable accommodation and ongoing engagement in a program to address his offending behaviour.
In 1977 Berwyn Rees shot dead Raymond James and Christopher Greenfield at Bondi Junction in Sydney. Mr James’s wife Mirjana and their daughter Tracy are pictured left. Mr James and Mirjana are pictured right on their wedding day. Tracy is now 44 and wanted Rees to die in jail
Three families are facing the reality of cold-blooded killer Berwyn Rees walking free from prison. Betty Greenfield’s son Christopher was shot dead by Rees at a gun shop in Sydney in 1977. She attended his parole hearing on February 8 with her daughter Michelle (both pictured)
‘Supervision includes face-to-face meetings and appointments, verification checks, home visits and regular contact with NSW Police.’
Thursday was the third time victims’ relatives had assembled to learn if the gun-mad murderer would die in jail or be set free.
On February 8 the relatives had gathered to hear Rees’s fate but to their frustration the authority adjourned the case.
Ms James, who was just two when her father was murdered, had been privately warned that Rees might not be in prison much longer.
‘This time I’ve resigned myself to the fact that he’s definitely getting out,’ she said.
‘I’ve set the bar low, knowing that he’s going to be released. It’s just when now.’
Anne Haydon (left), whose husband Sergeant Keith Haydon was murdered by Berwyn Rees near Newcastle in 1980, attended a February 8 parole hearing with her daughter Kathy (right)
Ms James received a letter from the SPA in September last year telling her Rees was being considered for release.
She has been receiving letters about Rees’s possible parole since his minimum prison term expired about a decade ago and attended his first parole hearing on November 16.
The 44-year-old was joined on Friday by the mother and sister of another Rees victim and the widow and two children of a third.
Rees has been called ‘one of the most cold-blooded killers ever to enter a NSW prison.’ Two of the men he murdered were shot dead in a gun shop while the third was a policeman.
Betty Greenfield is hugged by a supporter at the parole authority hearing for cold-blooded triple killer Berwyn Rees, who shot dead her 26-year-old son Christopher in August 1977
Peter Haydon’s father Sergeant Keith Haydon was murdered by Berwyn Rees in bushland near Newcastle in 1980. Mr Haydon (pictured) has attended Rees’s past parole board hearings
The judge who sentenced him to three life terms for the ‘mindless slaughter of three young men’ described his crimes as ‘wanton and merciless killings’.
As well as the three life sentences, Rees was sentenced to a further 10 years in prison for the malicious wounding of another policeman while trying to evade arrest.
Rees’s murders were passionless and marked by the fat loner’s obsession with guns.
On August 4, 1977 he walked into a gun shop at Bondi Junction in Sydney’s eastern suburbs and shot dead store manager Raymond James and customer Christopher Greenfield.
The men had been ordered to lie on the floor then were executed with shots to the back of the head. They were both 26.
Pictures of Raymond’s two-year-old daughter Tracy with her grieving mother Mirjana were splashed across the front pages of newspapers after the murders.
Rees, who had stolen 18 firearms as well as ammunition from the gun shop, went into hiding and was living at a caravan park at Raymond Terrace in the Hunter Valley when he killed again.
Sergeant Keith Haydon, pictured on the day of his wedding to Anne, was responding to reports of gunfire in a forest when he was murdered by Berwyn Rees. Mrs Haydon attended Rees’s parole hearing in Parramatta on February 8 with the couple’s children Kathy and Peter
Tracy James was just two when her father Raymond (left) was murdered. ‘I had to grow up a bit quicker compared to other kids,’ she said. ‘It was hard but I guess it was all I knew’. Christopher Greenfield (right) was murdered in a Bondi Junction gun shop alongside Tracy’s father
On November 24, 1980 police responded to reports by forestry and Telecom workers of a firearm being discharged in bushland at Mount Sugarloaf, about 25km west of Newcastle.
Rees, then 31, had gone to the secluded spot with six handguns and a quantity of ammunition to shoot at cans, as he had done about once a month for three years.
When confronted by Sergeant Keith Haydon, Rees shot him three times in the body with .38 Smith & Wesson revolver he had stolen from the Bondi Junction gun shop.
Rees had then attempted to move Sergeant Haydon’s police vehicle but the heroic officer had removed the keys from the ignition. Rees shot the 37-year-old in the back of the head.
After executing Sergeant Haydon, Rees was confronted by Constable Alexander Pietruszka and other police who pulled him over at Beresfield, about 20km away.
Mr Pietruszka told A Current Affair last year that Rees fired at him ‘without warning’.
‘The first bullet went through my hair,’ the now retired officer said.
Tracy James received a letter from the State Parole Authority in September last year telling her father’s killer, Berwyn Rees, was being considered for release after 38 years in prison
‘The second bullet flicked my ear and because I was turning sideways the third bullet… luckily hit the rib and bounced out rather than in.’
The young officer had been able to fire two shots back at Rees, who had never shown the slightest emotion while trying to kill him.
‘This bloke was nothing,’ Mr Pietruszka said. ‘I can’t explain to somebody how cold he was, how expressionless, just – just evil.’
THE HORRIFIC CRIMES OF BERWYN REES
August 4, 1977: Berwyn Rees shoots dead Raymond James and Christopher Greenfield inside a gun shop at Bondi Junction in Sydney’s eastern suburbs
November 24, 1980: After three years in hiding, Rees is confronted by Sergeant Keith Haydon in bushland at Mount Sugarloaf, near Newcastle. He shoots Sergeant Haydon dead. Later that day Rees shoots Constable Alexander Pietruszka at nearby Beresfield. Constable Pietruszka survies and Rees and is arrested
April 13, 1981: Justice Colin Begg sentences Rees, 31, to three life terms for the murders of Mr James, Mr Greenfield and Sergeant Haydon and 10 years for the malicious wounding of Constable Pietruszka
September 28, 2018: The NSW State Parole Authority forms an intention to grant Rees parole at a private hearing
February 8, 2019: The NSW State Parole Authority (SPA) adjourns a public hearing to determine whether Rees, now 69, should be released
February 21, 2019: The SPA announces Rees will be released
Rees was arrested that day and has been in custody ever since.
He pleaded guilty to the three murders and malicious wounding before Justice Colin Begg who sentenced Rees to life in prison in April 1981.
Justice Begg told Rees he seemed to have had ‘an obsession with firearms since you were small child’ and said ‘you have lived a somewhat lonely and solitary life.’
Mr Pietruszka believed Rees was still a very dangerous man.
‘This man didn’t kill these three people,’ he said. ‘He executed them.
‘I believe that somewhere deep inside him, there is still evil lurking.’
Sergeant Haydon’s widow Anne told A Current Affair she was convinced Rees would kill again if released.
‘If he gets out, if he gets in a corner, he’ll kill again,’ she told the program.
Ms James was stunned when she first received the letter from the parole authority to state it intended recommending release.
‘I think I was in shock,’ she said. ‘I still am.
‘I’m just in shock that they’re planning to grant him parole.’
Ms James had to grow up without her father and her memories of him are largely confined to photographs and stories told by other family members.
‘I had to grow up a bit quicker compared to other kids,’ she said. ‘It was hard but I guess it was all I knew.’
Constable Alexander Pietruszka, pictured being treated by ambulance officers, was lucky to escape with his life after being shot in the stomach by Berwyn Rees who was resisting arrest
A spokeswoman for the State Parole Authority said the body had formed an intention to grant Rees parole at a private hearing on September 28 last year.
‘SPA took particular note of the offenders’ prison performance, program participation to address offending behaviour and suitable post-release plans,’ the spokeswoman said.
Ms James said Rees was highly intelligent – completing a Bachelor of Arts Degree with a double major while incarcerated – but cold and calculating. He had shown no remorse for his crimes.
Sergeant Keith Haydon, who was killed by Berwyn Rees, in uniform beside his police car
‘All he’s doing is saying exactly what they want to hear so he gets let out,’ she said.
Ms James began a petition on change.org to keep Rees locked up; as of Thursday morning it had more than 25,000 signatures.
‘As far as I’m concerned, originally it was three life sentences plus 10 years for the attempted murder,’ she said.
‘Thirty eight years is nowhere near enough time. That’s an average 10 years per offence.
‘They were cold blooded executions. They were shot in the back of the head at point blank range. It was all premeditated, it was all planned.
‘This grub murdered three people. He’s also attempted to murder another policeman.
‘He gave them all life sentences. He gave each of the family members life sentences and I think it’s only just and fair that he receives exactly the same thing.’
The NSW Commissioner of Corrective Services, Peter Severin, had also opposed Rees being released.
Ress will be released between March 7 and March 21.
‘They were cold blooded executions,’ Tracy James said. ‘They were shot in the back of the head at point blank range. It was all premeditated, it was all planned.’ She is pictured with her father