Life imprisonment for Valentine's Day killer

A Wanganui woman who murdered a neighbour she believed was "coming on" to her partner on Valentine's Day last year has been sentenced to life imprisonment with a non-parole period of 13½ years.

Ana Andrea Hemara, 44, was found guilty in the High Court in Wanganui last month of the murder of Heather Rose Simons who suffered from cerebral palsy.

Passing sentence in the High Court in Wellington today, Justice Robert Dobson described the crime as an act of "mindless violence."

"This wasn't a frenzied attack," he said. "Your conduct must be condemned in the strongest possible terms."

Hemara also received six months imprisonment, to be served concurrently, for obstruction of justice.

The court was told earlier Hemara invited Ms Simons to her home for a drink with her and her younger partner Michael Douglas Christison, after noticing her hanging out washing. But the neighbourly gesture turned into violence when Hemara took offence at what she described as Ms Simons "coming on to her partner".

Hemara pulled Ms Simons from her chair, repeatedly punched her head, and stomped on her back and head with her bare feet. Ms Simons died in Wellington Hospital on February 17 without recovering from consciousness.

Defence counsel Stephen Ross said the attack was spontaneous, fuelled by jealousy and alcohol.

"She was holding herself back and trying not to use violence," he said. "At some point, she exploded. She couldn't hold back any longer."

But Crown prosecutor Lance Rowe said there was no justification for the killing. Though jealousy was a motivation, "the reaction was grotesque and extreme".

He sought a life sentence with no parole for a minimum of 17 years imprisonment, given the severity of the crime.

Mr Rowe said the victim was vulnerable as she was weak on the right side of her body, could not use her right hand, and was attacked without warning.

Ms Simons was face down, crying and defenceless, he said.

Mr Ross said even though the crime had a "significant element of brutality," it was not the most violent of cases and did not warrant a starting point of 17 years."

Justice Dobson agreed, saying the crime did not meet the level of brutality required for 17 years, but it was only avoided by a small margin. Outside the court, Sylvia Judge said her sister "didn't have a chance".

Ms Judge described her baby sister, the youngest of five, as a neighbourly person who did a lot of charity work.

"She just loved helping people," she said "I don't see her coming onto him (Hemara's partner) at all. I've never heard Heather come onto anybody. Her life was her daughter."

Ms Judge said that her sister's 14-year-old daughter was "coping extremely well".