Qld killer feared 'eternity' behind bars

A two-time killer found lifeless in his prison cell a day after the anniversary of his remand could not face “an eternity behind bars”, an inquest has found. 

© Jono Searle/AAP PHOTOS Queensland’s state coroner has found two-time killer John Edward Harris took his own life in prison.

John Edward Harris, 47, was found at the Townsville Correctional Facility on July 4, 2019. 

Harris was serving a life sentence for the sadistic torture and murder of mother-of-four Tia Landers on June 16, 2014.

He was the sole occupant of his cell and showed no signs of self-harm leading up to his death. 

A routine check at 8.40pm that night did not identify signs of stress and other inmates did not notice changes in his behaviour. 

At the inquest into his death in custody, the court heard was found “cold, stiff and unresponsive” in the second inmate headcount at 4.52am

Harris had been serving a life sentence for his part in the torture and murder of 28-year-old mother-of-four Tia Landers on June 16, 2014.

Harris and his partner Linda Eileen Appleton pleaded guilty to murdering Ms Landers at their Brighton home in June 201

Ms Landers was stabbed, stomped on, bashed and shot in the head before her wounded body was wrapped in a blanket and left in the Beerburrum forest.

Harris also killed his flatmate in 1998, shooting him and dumping him in the same forest, and convicted of manslaughter before being released on parole in 2011.

Two letters found in Harris’ cell revealed he had been contemplating taking his own life before his death.

In a letter to Appleton, Harris said he hated the thought of leaving her behind. 

“I just can’t do this anymore babe, an eternity behind bars, never to be released, and living like this is more than I can handle,” Harris wrote. 

State Coroner Terry Ryan presided over the mandatory inquest into the prison death and found Harris used items within the cell to end his life. 

“He died the day after the fifth anniversary of his remand into custody,” Mr Ryan found. 

“He intentionally took his own life  … there was no evidence to implicate any other person in his death.”

The inquest noted there had been seven deaths by hanging at Queensland Corrective Services facilities between November 2015 and March 2019. 

“As at 30 June 2021, 92.9% of all secure cells in correctional centres have been upgraded to safer cells. 

“There remain 340 ‘old stock’ cells within Queensland that are waiting to be modified.”

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