'She didn’t look like she could kill a guy'

Police at the scene of the murder in Tainui. Photo: ODT Files
Police at the scene of the murder in Tainui. Photo: ODT Files
A Dunedin woman has pleaded guilty to a murder charge after stabbing her partner 22 times while he was in the bath.

The woman appeared before Justice Cameron Mander in the High Court at Dunedin yesterday morning via audiovisual link, pleading guilty to stabbing her partner to death.

The 61-year-old woman and her partner, Mark Henry Willis, 58, met on a dating site about six years ago, moving to Dunedin in 2022.

The pair bought a three-bedroom home in Tainui, both obtaining fulltime employment.

Neighbours and friends said the arrest came as a surprise.

One friend of the woman said he used to visit her house.

"She’s a really normal woman. There’s nothing that would give me any cause for concern with her," he said.

When her mental health began to deteriorate at the beginning of the year, the defendant requested immediate sick leave, with no return to work in sight.

At 4.33pm on May 18, her partner returned home and by 5pm he was running a bath.

The defendant armed herself with a kitchen knife with a 10cm-long blade.

She entered the bathroom and stabbed Mr Willis 22 times.

She slashed at his body a further six times, causing superficial wounds.

An autopsy revealed the depth of the stab wounds ranged from 11mm to 110mm.

One of the stab wounds severed the man’s left subclavian artery in his upper torso and four wounds were inflicted to the man’s lungs and liver.

He died of blood loss.

At 5.15pm the woman sent a Facebook message to one of her children, stating: "I love you, I’m sorry for what I have done."

At 5.17pm she transferred $45,000 into their bank account.

She then called emergency services, saying she had stabbed her partner to death.

Nine minutes later, police were on the scene, finding the man’s body in the bath.

The woman greeted police at the door, wearing bloodstained clothes and with visible cuts to her hands.

A neighbour said police cars initially showed up with lights but no sirens.

About 10 police cars and three ambulances attended, he said.

"They just went on to the footpath and went inside and started setting up," he said.

He saw an older lady in the back of a police car.

He did not know the couple, other than from afar.

The killing came as quite a surprise.

"It’s a bit full-on; it’s hard to process. She didn’t look like she could kill a guy, she looked just like an old lady in the back of the car — I thought maybe that she was a witness," he said.

The woman’s name and occupation remain suppressed and she is set to appear for sentencing in the High Court on October 4.