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The four murderers of Featherston man Glen Jones will spend at least 17 years in prison before the possibility of release.
Justice Alan MacKenzie, in the High Court at Wellington this morning, sentenced Tariana Jones, Matthew McKinney, Kristopher Jones, and Hayden Ranson to mandatory sentences of life imprisonment, with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years.
He sentenced them to 10 years' jail for aggravated burglary, to be served concurrently.
A co-accused, Toni Miller, who waited on the street while the murder took place, was also guilty of aggravated burglary. She was sentenced to eight years' jail.
Mr Jones, 40, died in hospital from massive head injuries after a brutal attack in his Featherston home on January 12 last year. The supermarket worker was fatally bashed in retaliation for an alleged rape, based on unsubstantiated rumour.
Justice MacKenzie said they not only took the life of Glen Jones, but also his reputation by falsely accusing him of rape.
"You took it upon yourselves to take vigilante action. That is never acceptable."
He described it as a "mindless mob mentality" to inflict a "savage and brutal beating by hitting him with the weapons and kicking him".
Mr Jones suffered over 30 separate injuries, fracturing his skull and causing bruising and swelling of the brain.
"He was completely defenceless and taken by surprise," Justice MacKenzie said.
"After your horrific and frenzied attack, you left the flat, and ran off.
"The effect on Mr Jones' family has been profound. His mother gave evidence at your trial. The depth of her grief was very apparent in the witness box.
"You all aided and encouraged each other ... each of you four are responsible for the murder."
The court heard mitigating circumstances from the defendants' counsels, including they were genuinely remorseful, full of regret, and heavily intoxicated.
Earlier in a victim impact statement, Mr Jones' brother Brent told the court that the moment he found out about the murder, it was like "a big knife in our hearts".
Glen Jones suffered from learning disabilities and a number of childhood ailments, including being weak in his right side of his body and almost blind in his right eye, he said.
"He was the most loved and cherished member of our family, a very kind and gentle man who would only ever see the best in people. He was a loving, caring, honest and harmless man who struggled throughout his life to complete the simplest things that we all take for granted."
He choked back tears as he explained that hearing the false accusations that his brother was a rapist during the trial was "the worst moment of our lives".
"I'm still shocked and angry that, 16 and a half months ago, they decided over a bottle of tequila and a few beers that they would be judge, jury and executioner.
"When we found out what happened to Glen, it was like someone had put a big knife in our hearts. I was on the beach in Australia with my family, having a great time ... and the next moment I was in a whole world of pain. This pain is with us always . . . we struggle daily with it.
"Sitting in court and hearing Glen being called a rapist over and over again ... was totally unbearable. We couldn't get up and shout that he was never a rapist. It was so hard hearing evidence, just awful.
"His last moments were filled with fear, totally alone and without any of us there to help him. We will never get over that.
"Glen has been senselessly and violently ripped out of our lives ... they should be disgusted with themselves.
"I hope now at least Mum and Dad will have some form of peace. For me, it won't change a thing. Glen is gone. I will always be sad, always feel angry, and feel guilty when I am happy."
Family members of the defendants cried out "Love you cousins" as they were led away.
Outside court, Detective Inspector Sean Hansen said he was "comfortable'' with the sentences.
"The lengthy sentences that have been imposed today should send a clear message that acts of vigilante justice will not, and should not, be tolerated in our communities.
"The reality in this case is that nothing brings Glen back. His family continue to grieve ... The sad reality of today is that most of the defendants involved are parents themselves. They have now deprived their children for many, many years to come.''
Brent Jones thanked the members of the justice system, including police, Justice MacKenzie and Victim Support.
He said the family would not be taking further questions.
- By Derek Cheng of APNZ