THE devastated mother of Lauren Hickson, who was raped, tortured and murdered in 1989, has issued an eleventh hour plea that her daughter’s killer not be granted parole on Tuesday.
Neville Raymond Towner is serving life for the murder of four-year-old Lauren who he abducted from the Nepean River Caravan Park where her family lived at Emu Plains in far-western Sydney.
He is due to face the NSW State Parole Authority (SPA) in a bid for freedom, 28 years into his sentence for the brutal drowning murder on May 17, 1989.
Then aged 23, Towner was the son of Lauren’s babysitter, to whom the girl’s mother Jurina Hickson entrusted her daughter’s care.
Lauren had been left alone with Towner while Mrs Hickson and her husband believed she was in the care of Towner’s mother.
A huge police search was mounted when Lauren vanished from her parents’ caravan.
Two days later, the little girl’s near-naked body was found in a creek bed 500m west of the caravan park.
A court later heard that Towner had hit Lauren over the head with a rock before attempting to rape her, and drowned her in the Nepean River.
Police charged Towner with maliciously murdering Lauren Jennifer Hickson, and with assault with intent to sexually assault a child under ten.
Two days later, Towner attempted to take his own life in custody by slashing his wrists.
Shortly after his appearance in Penrith Court, outside where an angry drown gathered including a man dangling a doll from a hangman’s noose, Towner was taken back to Parramatta prison.
There, he allegedly attempted suicide while in the protection wing where he smashed a light bulb in the isolation cell.
In 2002, Towner successfully had his life sentence redetermined with a minimum non-parole period.
In March this year, Towner, who is now aged 51, faced a hearing before State Parole Authority which announced its intention to release him.
Towner has not undergone any transition programs in prison, but has participated in one escorted day-release.
In a change.org petition to oppose his release, Jurina Hickson said, “I’ll never forgive him while I’ve still got breath in my body.
“The murder was so horrific. He sexually assaulted and tortured her.
“I just can’t understand why a prisoner of his calibre is going to get a get-out-of-jail-free card.”
Lauren’s cousin, Robert Miell, begged people to sign the petition because “it might only be 1 signature that makes the difference”.
Victims of crime advocate, Howard Brown, will make a formal submission on Tuesday on behalf of Lauren’s family that Towner is not suitable for release.
NSW Commissioner for Corrective Services, Peter Severin, also opposes Towner’s release from prison.