More than two decades since he found his murdered neighbours dead in their beds, Steven Bailey still won’t cross to their side of the street.
Life in Shearwater Boulevarde at Albion Park Rail changed after the March 12, 1996 killings at the De Gruchy home.
One neighbour was so disturbed she sold her house and moved. Social gatherings dwindled without Jennifer De Gruchy, “the sort of person who was the main part of the neighbourhood”.
Some residents quickly realised 18-year-old Matthew De Gruchy must have killed Jennifer – his mother – and his siblings Sarah and Adrian (aged 13 and 15). But with his father Wayne, the teen remained at the home while detectives built their case.
“The three months he was still living across the road was the hardest,” said Mr Bailey, now 59.
“I said [to police], I can’t go to work leaving my family at home with him living across there. They said, give us another week.”
On Thursday the NSW State Parole Authority will consider Matthew De Gruchy’s release after 21 years behind bars.
News of it has triggered difficult memories for Mr Bailey. He hopes the terms of De Gruchy’s release, when it happens, will prohibit him from returning to the area.
“I don’t think he should be allowed out, in all honesty. What he did and what I saw – you can’t tell me that someone that did what he did, that it’s just going to pass and be all over and done with.”
De Gruchy arrived home the morning of March 13 to ‘discover’ his family dead. He frantically summoned Mr Bailey to the house, telling him, “there’s something wrong with mum and Sarah”.
“He was crying. You know how you have crocodile tears? Like two brothers wrestling, and one makes out he's crying to make the other let go. This is what it's like. He was in front of me and I thought it was weird.”
Mr Bailey found Jennifer and Sarah in their bedrooms, with grotesque and unsurvivable head injuries.
Police afterwards arranged for counselors to see him, but the trauma of his experience would stir for months and years afterwards.
A colleague’s bloody medical emergency, which coincided with reports of De Gruchy’s impending parole hearing, recently triggered his trauma.
“It’s tattooed in your head,” he said. “I know what I seen, and I have my little times where I’ve just got to get away and sit down. I just want to get rid of it, but it will never go away.”
Despite the horrors he witnessed, Mr Bailey and his wife have never moved from Shearwater Boulevarde.
They still get on well with their neighbours and are pragmatic about their decision to hold onto their home.
“We could move somewhere else, and it could happen across the road again,” Mr Bailey said.
“What are you going to do, start all over again? It doesn’t matter where I go. It’s still going to be in my head.”
Parole authority to decide on killer
Now aged 38, Matthew De Gruchy will learn on Thursday whether he has come a step closer to freedom.
The NSW Parole Authority will consider the triple killer’s case behind closed doors, before forming an intention to either refuse or grant parole.
De Gruchy himself and any registered victims of his crimes will have the opportunity to make a submission before any release date is set.
It could happen, at the earliest, on June 21.
De Gruchy has written to relatives in the lead-up to the hearing and is believed to have expressed his enthusiasm for leaving prison.
He has earned the right, since June, to leave Junee Correctional Centre for approved reasons including education, day leave or work, including a job in the chill room at Junee Abattoir.
With no murder weapon ever found, De Gruchy was sentenced to a maximum 28 years in prison, with a non-parole period of 21 years.
A parole hearing last month was stood over to allow the authority to consider a report on his post-release accommodation.
The Mercury understands De Gruchy intends to live with his father in Tasmania.