Killer jailed for 21 years

Aaron Rhys McDonald. Photo / Martin Hunter
Aaron Rhys McDonald. Photo / Martin Hunter
A P user who raped and murdered a Christchurch woman before attacking two hitch-hikers on the West Coast has today been sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 21 years.

Aaron Rhys McDonald (39) spat on the courtroom floor after being sentenced in the High Court at Christchurch this morning.

As well as receiving a sentence on the murder charge of 21 years in jail before he can apply for parole, he was sentenced to preventive detention on the rape charge with a minimum non-parole period of seven years, eight months.

At the start of the sentencing, Justice Christian Whata imposed widespread suppressions, including the identity of victims, the full summary of facts, and victim impact statements.

After the March 29 murder in Christchurch of the 24-year old woman referred to in court today only under the name "Jane", McDonald, a kitchenhand from Otaki, fled to the West Coast where he picked up two foreign hitch-hikers and assaulted them.

The court's public gallery was packed with family and friends today.

Crown prosecutor Claire Boshier told the court that none of the victims or their families wanted to speak to the media.

The victims had suffered "immense personal tragedy" and media actions had only compounded their distress, she said.

"Poignant and heartfelt" victim impact statements were provided for the judge, but their details were suppressed.

Ms Boshier said the victim was "dearly loved" and had an exceptionally strong bond with her family.

She was a good person who took McDonald into her home because she wanted to help him.

But now her family would never see her again, never attend her wedding, or have her children around as part of their family.

The hitchhikers have also suffered physically and emotionally, Ms Boshier said, and the effects would be long-lasting.

The murder and rape of "Jane" was "brutal, callous and cruel" and amounted to mental and physical torture, the Crown said.

The Crown pushed for a sentence of preventive detention given his significant and ongoing to the community.

There was no doubt he would receive a lengthy period in jail before he could even apply for parole, and even then he might not get parole, the Crown admitted.

But he would still remain a risk given his "ingrained personality and character traits" which were at the root of his offending and are difficult to change.

Ms Boshier said McDonald "operates at a superficial level" and couldn't meaningfully engage in treatment aimed to reduce his extremely high risk.

Throughout his 68 criminal convictions, he has only even shown a "minimal appreciation" that his actions has had on others.

Defence counsel Elizabeth Bulger said that McDonald, who has grown a bushy beard while in custody, was high on methamphetamine at the time.

She accepted that life imprisonment with a lengthy period of non-parole was inevitable but argued that preventive detention was not necessary.

Justice Christian Whata said there was nothing in McDonald's childhood that could possibly foreshadow his offending.

His adult years had been blighted by drug use, in particular methamphetamine, the judge said.

Justice Whata said it was difficult to describe the level of McDonald's depravity.

- By Kurt Bayer of APNZ

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