Family of Shirley Reedy distraught her killer husband could be released from prison next year

Family of Shirley Reedy distraught her killer husband could be released from prison next year

The whānau of a woman fatally strangled on her honeymoon are distraught that her killer could be released as soon as next year.

Balclutha woman Shirley Reedy, 52, was strangled to death in a motel room by her husband, Rodney Fallowfield, on their belated honeymoon in 2020.

During his trial, it was revealed it wasn't the first time for Fallowfield after a Crown witness testified that she had been strangled by him 30 years ago.

"I thought, right, we've got you, you've done this before and you've killed my sister. Murder is going to be on the table. We're going to have the outcome she deserved," says Reedy's sister Roxanne Roxburgh.

A jury found 53-year-old Fallowfield not guilty of murder, but the lesser charge of manslaughter. 

An expert on the effects of family violence on wāhine Māori told The Hui that the Crimes Act charge of strangulation introduced in 2018 needs to carry more weight.

"When you put your hands around a person's throat, you are saying, 'Oh, I'm in control of taking your life to cut your very breath'. They're taking your very breath away," says director of Māori health research at Auckland University of Technology Professor Denise Wilson.

"It's a highly lethal act and if you do it, there is a likelihood that somebody will die. So I think we should have a zero-tolerance of any pressure around the neck."

Reedy's whānau says she had a heart of gold and put her trust in the wrong man. 

A year-and-a-half on from her tragic death, her whānau say they are being re-victimised, this time by our justice system which could free Reedy's killer next year.

"We're devastated as a whānau, it's unbelievable. We came expecting something that he would be accountable to and he's just got a slap on the wrist," says Roxburgh.

Reedy's whānau were hoping for the maximum penalty for manslaughter, which was seven years and nine months. But from there, Justice Jan-Marie Doogue awarded multiple reductions to Fallowfield's sentence.

"In light of your clear and consistent remorse and the fact that you have engaged in restorative justice processes, I'm satisfied a credit of 10 percent was justified," says Justice Doogue.

Shirley Reedy.
Shirley Reedy. Photo credit: The Hui

Not only did Fallowfield receive discounts for his remorse, taking part in the restorative justice process, cooperating with Police, and the abuse he suffered as a child, but the major discounting factor was his willingness to plead guilty to manslaughter from the outset.

In total, Fallowfield was given a 45 percent discount to the original starting point and sentenced to four years and three months in prison.

It was a disappointing result for the whānau, who realised that the man who killed Reedy could be out of prison on parole next year, having then served half of his sentence.

"I think Māori women are always going to be not served well by the justice system. The way in which our system is set up, that's not going to happen until we put victims at the centre and have a different type of system than an adversarial system. I think we're always going to be disappointed," says Professor Wilson.

Reedy's whānau feel that justice for a beloved daughter, sister, and aunt was not served.

"We've just got one more job to do and that's to put her headstone down then we will have a good long rest. It's been a heck of a journey and I wouldn't wish it on anybody," Roxburgh says.

Made with support from Te Māngai Pāho and NZ On Air.

Family of Shirley Reedy distraught her killer husband could be released from prison next year