Brother of murder victim Michael McGrath calls for 'no body, no parole' law in New Zealand

For almost seven years, Michael McGrath's family have been waiting to say their final goodbyes.

The case dubbed Operation Renovation has its conviction and sentence, but the body remains missing. But the only one who knows where he is has refused to speak.

It has prompted Michael's brother Simon McGrath to call on the Government to introduce a law to incentivise killers to tell police where their victim's body is hidden.

The law dubbed 'no body, no parole' has been implemented in Australia to stop convicted murderers who refuse to disclose the location of their victim's body from becoming eligible for parole.

David Benbow, Michael's childhood friend, was sentenced to life with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years last week at Christchurch's High Court for his murder.

It is alleged Benbow shot McGrath after he arrived at his home in Haswell in May 2017 to help shift railway sleepers.

The Crown's key argument was the fact that Benbow's ex-partner and mother of their two children Joanna Green had started a romantic relationship with McGrath. It suggested Benbow acted out of jealousy and anger towards the new relationship when he killed McGrath.

The Crown believes McGrath's body was disposed of along the Banks Peninsula but despite extensive police searches, he remains missing.

Detective Inspector Kylie Schaare told media after the sentencing that she hasn't given up hope that McGrath's body will be found.

"But I think we've got to be realistic, and we heard today that the person sentenced still doesn't accept responsibility or remorse, so I think that's unrealistic that we will get an answer from that avenue at this time," Det Insp Schaare said. 

Michael McGrath.
Michael McGrath. Photo credit: NZ Police

With Michael still missing it leaves his family with many unanswered questions.

"It would give us some final closure and allow us to move on," Simon said.

Simon's calling for New Zealand to follow suit with Australia by implementing the 'no body, no parole' law.

"Given the magnitude of such crimes, concealment of a body is enough to warrant such a law being introduced and it would give families a proper farewell," he said.

The law could motivate a perpetrator to disclose the location of their victims.

"At the very least, a family would know that a killer is not going to get out of prison unless they cooperate," Simon said.

"Given the magnitude of such crimes, concealment of a body is enough to warrant such a law being introduced and it would give families a proper farewell."
"Given the magnitude of such crimes, concealment of a body is enough to warrant such a law being introduced and it would give families a proper farewell." Photo credit: Newshub.

Nearly all states in Australia have the legislation in place, with New South Wales becoming the most recent to pass the law which applies to all current and future inmates. Tasmania is the only state that does not have the legislation.

It has been successful across the ditch, with police believing the legislation drove the murderer in a high-profile case in Sydney to reveal where he hid the bodies of his victims.

Assistant Commissioner Fitzgerald claimed that NSW’s new 'no body, no parole' laws may have been a factor in former cop Beau Lamarre-Condon's decision to cooperate with police.

The idea of such a law is not a new discussion in New Zealand. Former National MP Tim Macindoe lodged a private members bill back in 2020 but it never got picked from the ballot.

He told Newshub it was particularly his contact with the McGrath family that encouraged him to think about drafting the bill four years ago.

"I was very conscious of the fact that some families suffer huge additional anguish when they lose a loved one in horrific circumstances," Macindoe said.

"I felt it was important to try to give those who were convicted of such offences, without a body ever having been located, the incentive to identify where the body had been put so that the families could at least have some opportunity for closure… and not have to go through life with the additional huge stress of not even knowing what had actually happened to the person they had lost."

Before the election, now Minister of Justice Paul Goldsmith said his party was open to the idea and would "look into it if we are fortunate to form a government in October".

Fast forward and National is in Government but currently has no plans to introduce the law.

Goldsmith's office declined an interview, telling Newshub he couldn't comment so close to the conclusion of the Benbow trial.

However, he sent a statement on Friday that said: "The Government is currently focused on its coalition commitments around restoring justice, and all other potential work items will have to be considered at a later date."

But for now, Michael's family still hope his body will return home.

"It would be good to have a proper farewell. It's something the family's never had."