IN the 24 years after murdering his girlfriend, Grant David Mitchell was a fugitive, living a transient lifestyle, using three different aliases and working for cash.
But in January 2011 the New Zealander had had enough, walked into the police station at Atherton in northern Queensland, and surrendered himself.
On Friday in the NSW Supreme Court, the now 62-year-old was jailed for at least 10 years after pleading guilty to murdering , 19, in 1987 at their Sydney home.
In setting a maximum of 14 years, Justice Peter Hidden said the basis for the plea was that the killing was done with reckless indifference to human life.
Mitchell, who had a wife and two children in NZ before the marriage broke up, had been with Ms Poli, also a New Zealander, for about eight months.
On the night she died, they had a physical altercation during which he was wearing a pendant attached to a gold chain she had given him.
“As they struggled, she pulled the pendant from the chain and put it in her mouth,” the judge said.
“He grabbed her around the neck with his hands and then used a pair of pantyhose as a ligature in an attempt to make her cough the pendant up.”
They fell to the ground, he held a pillow over her face to quieten her, she stopped struggling and he blacked out.
He later removed their faces from a photo and placed two pins in the picture where Ms Poli’s eyes had been.
Mitchell left the scene, contemplated killing himself, destroyed his personal identification and lived in the bush for a time.
“With the introduction of the compulsory tax file number system, he fled to far north Queensland,” the judge said.
Mitchell then worked on and off, doing manual labour for cash.
“He maintained this transient lifestyle, using three different aliases and avoiding police detection,” the judge said.
Justice Hidden accepted Mitchell was genuinely remorseful.
“It may be, as the crown prosecutor suggested, that he had reached a stage where he could no longer endure life as a fugitive.
“However, even if that be so, I accept that he was also motivated to acknowledge his guilt and face his punishment.”
Justice Hidden referred to a “moving” victim impact statement by the victim’s mother, Caroline Ann McGill, who expressed her grief and outrage at the violent death of her daughter.
The judge received “impressive testimonials” about Mitchell, including a letter from a Queensland couple who knew him under an assumed name, who painted him as a loyal and caring friend.
Mitchell’s prospects of rehabilitation were good and he had the support of his former wife and his daughter, who still live in NZ and who wrote letters to the judge.
In jailing him for a 1987 crime, the judge had to take into account the pattern and practice of sentencing for murder at that time.