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
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
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
The court's public gallery was packed with family and friends
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
The hitchhikers have also suffered physically and
emotionally, Ms Boshier said, and the effects would be
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
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
- By Kurt Bayer of APNZ