NT News Archive Photo: Dennis Rostron murder case. 6/10/1988
NT News Archive Photo: Dennis Rostron murder case. 6/10/1988

Killer paroled after 33 years behind bars

ONE of the Territory's worst mass murderers, Dennis Rostron, has been granted parole more than 33 years after he murdered five family members, including his two young children.

Rostron, now 55, was in 1988 sentenced to life in jail after a jury found him guilty of murdering his wife, Cecily, his two children Preston, 2, and Zarack, 1, his father-in-law, Dick Murrumurru, and Dick's wife, Dolly, at Molgawo outstation near Maningrida.

At the time, a life sentence came with no prospect for parole, but in 2013 Justice Judith Kelly fixed Rostron's non-parole period at 28 years.

When he was arrested, he told police he was sad and angry when he fetched a shotgun and a .308 rifle and opened fire.

In 2013, Rostron said: "Over the years I have been in prison I have always thought how old my sons would be when I see families visiting other prisoners and I think I don't have a wife and children because of me."

Murderer Dennis Rostron became a renowned artist inside prison
Murderer Dennis Rostron became a renowned artist inside prison

Rostron's mother, who he saw during his ten days on the run in West Arnhem land, was so saddened by her son's crimes she walked off into the bush and was never seen again.

Rostron believes he was for years targeted with "black magic" curses as payback for his crimes.

Rostron is in frail health, having suffered a heart attack in 2011, aged 47, and has previously been described as looking like a "much older man" than his 55 years.

He also suffered a suspected brain injury as a child, when he fell out of a tree and was left with a stick protruding from his skull.

While behind bars, Rostron - who lived a largely traditional life until he committed his crimes - has learnt to read and write English and has developed significant skills as an artist.

Earlier this month, Rostron appeared in court as a witness in a trial about a serious assault inside Holtze Prison.

Dennis Rostron,
Dennis Rostron, "Two Brolga Sisters".

Before being released, prisoners serving life sentences for murder must unanimously convince an eight-member parole board that they are deserving of parole, while other prisoners need only convince the majority of a four-member board.


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In deciding parole applications for murderers, the Parole Act requires the parole board to seek feedback from the victims' families and from Rostron's community and is required to take the protection of the community as the "paramount consideration".