This time next year Matthew De Gruchy could walk free from jail. He will be 38 – young enough to embrace a career, find a wife and start a family.
How will this man who has been locked up since the age of 18 find a way to function in society – to escape his bloodied, dark and well-publicised past? Only time will tell.
No one knows why the Albion Park Rail teenager bludgeoned to death his mum, brother and sister in a frenzied attack. He left them with injuries so horrific the very sight of the bodies sent one police officer off sick, never to return to work. Detectives who spent three months gathering evidence to put Matthew behind bars can only surmise about what sparked this evil.
It was a Wednesday morning in March, 1996 when Matthew ran outside “in a bad way’’ frantically calling for help. His neighbour got the shock of his life when he entered the De Gruchy home.
Inside, Jennifer, 41, was lying on bloodstained sheets in her bedroom. She had suffered massive head and facial injuries. The coroner required blood-match samples to identify her. Sarah, 13, was in her bedroom with massive head and facial injuries. Adrian, 15, was lying in a pool of blood in the garage, his teeth scattered. He had 21 wounds to his face and neck and was doused in petrol
Ambulance officers reported a distressed Matthew saying things like ‘’What’s happened? Who’s done this’’. He was taken to hospital. He would later tell investigators he’d come home to find the horror after spending the night with his girlfriend in Woonona.
In the early days of the investigation everyone was a suspect. Matthew’s dad Wayne, in Sydney the night of the murders, was quickly ruled out. All evidence was pointing to Matthew. Three months later he was arrested.
Prosecutors would tell the jury in his trial that Matthew had a checklist of how to murder his family. The note found with property from the family home was the strongest piece of evidence in their case.
Pulled from a bag dumped near his girlfriend's house, the notepad paper secured his guilt. The bag also contained carpet from Jennifer and Wayne’s bedroom, a video recorder, two of Matthew’s T-shirts and a Sambuca bottle missing from the home. A sheet from an identical pad was later found in Matthew’s bedroom.
"Cut somewhere with knife", "hit arm with pole", "have shower", "Sarah, Mum, Adrian", "throw bottle down the back" - it all pointed to a cover-up.
Matthew conceded the note was in his handwriting but couldn’t recall what it meant. His best guess was it referred to his 18th birthday plans. Crown Prosecutor, later turned District Court judge, Paul Conlon told the jury there was ‘’not a shred of truth in that." The jury agreed.
There’s no doubt this crime has left stains on the lives of many. Yet still today people savour details, possibly hoping to understand how an “ordinary’’ teen could do something so ghastly.
Only Matthew can shed any light, but with freedom within his reach, it’s unlikely he will tell.
Probation and Parole confirmed he can be considered for parole in April 2017.
Flick through the gallery above to read archived stories on the case. With thanks to Wollongong City Library for archive assistance
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.