‘I knew I could die’: cancer patient attacked

A terminally ill cancer patient attacked in her own home has described her assailant as "a devious, manipulative, extremely violent and dangerous woman".

The 62-year-old was living in a Dunedin boarding house in April last year when she was confronted by Jenna Robertson, 39.

"I made the biggest mistake of my life when I decided to open my bedroom door," the victim said.

"The punches came hard, fast and continuous to my face and body.

"In those split seconds lying there being punched, I knew I was fighting for my life.

"You just kept on punching me. I knew I could die there."

Robertson appeared in the Dunedin District Court this week after pleading guilty to assault with intent to injure, assaulting police and two counts of wilful damage.

In November 2022, police were called to the defendant’s Invercargill home after she smashed up the house and some car windscreens.

She punched an officer in the head during the arrest and just weeks later caused more damage, this time to a hotel where she was staying.

While on bail — in breach of a no-alcohol clause — Robertson was socialising with friends at a Dunedin boarding house.

The victim read an emotional statement about what ensued.

"You tormented me for hours.

"You knocked on my bedroom door each time you passed during the day — I lost count of how many times."

Eventually she opened the door when Robertson claimed she wanted to apologise.

The barrage of punches only ended when a male tenant intervened.

The victim told the court Robertson threatened to "knife" her while she was on the phone to police.

Judge David Robinson said her injuries were "horrendous".

The victim detailed the severe bruising to her face and concussion which left her with headaches, dizziness and sensitivity to light.

She moved out because she no longer felt safe at the boarding house, the court heard.

"You viciously attacked me knowing I was [nearly] 25 years older than you and that I had stage-4 terminal cancer.

"You, Jenna Robertson, are a devious, manipulative, extremely violent and dangerous woman."

Counsel Rhona Daysh said her client was "utterly devastated" by the pain she had caused.

"She’s finding it very difficult to live with herself and live with the person she was."

Robertson had since been through a residential rehabilitation programme and was regularly attending counselling for her drug and alcohol issues.

She planned to move to Oamaru to be closer to her children, Ms Daysh said.

Judge Robinson conveyed his sympathy for the victim and said he hoped Robertson’s lack of eye contact when the victim read her statement was not indicative of a lack of contrition.

He sentenced her to 200 hours’ community work, 12 months’ supervision and ordered her to pay $694 reparation.

"Ms Robertson, this has been a very close-run thing for you.

"On another day, in front of another judge, you may well have been imprisoned for this."