Arrest in 22-year-old case

Mrs Harrison’s children, Julie Lane, Dianne Smoker and Dean Harrison thanked police for making a breakthrough in their mother’s cold case. PHOTOS: Supplied

THE family of local grandmother Phyllis Harrison, who was murdered in her own home 22 years ago, have praised police after an arrest was made into the cold case.

Police announced on Thursday a 45-year-old Northfield man had been arrested for the murder, which occurred at 71-year-old Mrs Harrison’s Elizabeth South home on March 3, 1998.

She was found dead in her house by her daughter and grandson. Mrs Harrison had allegedly been stabbed and her house ransacked.

The man cannot be named for legal reasons. He appeared in the Adelaide Magistrates Court on Friday.

Mrs Harrison’s son Dean Harrison said his mother’s murder was a “great injustice”.

“It was a great injustice that we lost our mother for 22 years. And the other injustice was that this monster was roaming around for 22 years while we’re grieving and going to the cemetery… he was living his life,” he said.

“We do feel relieved to that it can’t happen again, it can’t happen anymore.”

Mrs Harrison’s daughter Julie Lane said her mother was a “beautiful person”.

“She loved her family, the community loved her and she was always busy either being involved in church, bowls and she always had friends around her,” she said.

“She was always busy and sometimes you had to make an appointment to see her. That was a standing joke in the family.”

The 45-year-old man’s arrest comes after police identified new evidence through the investigation, as well as advancements in forensic evidence technology.

According to police, Mrs Harrison was last seen at around 7.30pm the night before she was found dead.

SA police assistance commissioner Peter Harvey said the arrest came about after work between Major Crime detectives and forensic scientists.

“It’s not just about DNA or the advancement of science, it’s also about the quality of the detective work first of all that takes us down that path,” he said.

“It’s a combination of detective work, police work, endless pursuit and advances in technology, including DNA.

“It’s that composite approach that over time particularly through the court process, will bring that to the fore.”

He added police were still not aware if anything had been taken from Mrs Harrison’s home at the time of her murder, and called on the public for information.

“We will be seeking assistance from the community. Anyone who might know or have heard something about what might have been taken,” he said.

“Despite this arrest, we’re confident in making this call to the community that there might be some more information out there. Someone who knows something and is reflecting on something they saw or heard in the past 22 years.

“Now’s the time to come forward. It’s the right thing to do and it’s the right time to come forward because every little bit counts.”

Sam Bradbrook


Sam Bradbrook joined The Bunyip in 2018 as a reporter and covers the Gawler, Playford and Adelaide Plains Council rounds. He graduated from the University of South Australia in the same year with a Bachelor of Journalism and Professional Writing and had previously interned at the Jakarta Post in Indonesia and The Courier in Mount Barker before moving to Gawler. In February of 2020, Sam was named the Young Journalist of the Year for 2019 by Country Press South Australia. He is interested in reporting on politics, healthcare, police and social issues and outside of work has a passion for sport and music.

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