Man found guilty of murdering partner in house fire

Leigh Beer Photo: RNZ
Leigh Beer Photo: RNZ
A jury has found a New Plymouth man guilty of murdering his partner in a 2022 house fire.

Leigh Matthew Frederick Beer has been on trial for four weeks charged with arson and murder following the death of 21-year-old Emma Field.

The 31-year-old also faced an additional charge of with assault with intent to injure.

Emma Field Photo: NZME
Emma Field Photo: NZME
The jury, which deliberated over three days, found him guilty on all three charges.

It rejected the proposition that Beer was a failed hero who had tried valiantly to fight the fire and save his girlfriend.

Instead the jury decided he was a calculated killer who had set a the fire and left Field to burn to death.

During the summing-up of the case on Tuesday, the jury heard two vastly different accounts of the night the supermarket worker's life ended.

In one, the Crown argued that Beer had been caught "red-handed" with his blood on the "murder weapons" - a butane lighter and a cigarette lighter allegedly used to start the fire.

Crown prosecutor Cherie Clarke alleged after an evening of drinking and drug-taking, Beer tipped over a bed on which Field was sleeping, set the mattress alight and left her to burn to death.

Beer consistently denied the charges.

Defence counsel Julian Hannam said the case against him was "speculative" and someone else could have set the flat the couple shared on fire - in particular, a Mongrel Mob member seen on the property the night of the blaze.