No mitigating factors in backpacker's murder - judge

LIFE SENTENCE: Michael Scott Wallace has been sentenced to a minimum of 18 years in jail for murdering backpacker Birgit Brauer.
TREVOR READ/Taranaki Daily News
LIFE SENTENCE: Michael Scott Wallace has been sentenced to a minimum of 18 years in jail for murdering backpacker Birgit Brauer.

A judge said there were no mitigating factors as he sentenced Michael Scott Wallace today to life imprisonment, with a non-parole period of 18 years, for murdering German backpacker Birgit Brauer.
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Wallace, 46, sporting a new close-cropped haircut and unshaven face, showed no emotion but sat attentively in the dock of the High Court at New Plymouth during his sentencing.

In August he was found guilty murdering the 28-year-old tourist, whose beaten and stabbed body was found in Lucy's Gully, near Oakura, southwest of New Plymouth, on September 20, 2005.

HANDING DOWN SENTENCE: Justice Mark Cooper who gave Michael Scott Wallace an 18-year sentence for the murder of a German backpacker.
TREVOR READ/Taranaki Daily News
HANDING DOWN SENTENCE: Justice Mark Cooper who gave Michael Scott Wallace an 18-year sentence for the murder of a German backpacker.

In the victim impact statement read to the court by interpreter Peter Stachurski, Miss Brauer's parents said the events of the 2005 attack would never leave them.

"To this day we cannot believe Birgit is not with us. A criminal like him does not deserve to live," the statement said.

Crown prosecutor Cherie Clarke, in calling for a minimum non-parole period of 20 years, cited a "callous and brutal" murder.

VICTIM: Detective Grant Coward holds a photo of German backpacker Birgit Brauer the German backpacker who was murdered by  Michael Scott Wallace.
MARK DWYER/Taranaki Daily News
VICTIM: Detective Grant Coward holds a photo of German backpacker Birgit Brauer the German backpacker who was murdered by Michael Scott Wallace.

Ms Clarke said Miss Brauer was vulnerable as a 28-year-old female backpacker and had been unconscious before she was dragged into the bushes at Lucy's Gully where Wallace stabbed her through the heart – killing her so he would avoid detection.

Ms Clarke also noted the level of international interest in the case which had reflected badly on this country and its community.

Wallace's lawyer, Greg King, said while Wallace maintained his innocence he accepted the minimum sentence for murder was life imprisonment.

EVIDENCE: Brigit Brauer's notebook  which had Michael Wallace's fingerprint on it  and was presented as part of evidence in the murder trial.
Taranaki Daily News
EVIDENCE: Brigit Brauer's notebook which had Michael Wallace's fingerprint on it and was presented as part of evidence in the murder trial.

He noted several recent cases where more brutal murderers had received lesser non-parole periods than the Crown was seeking.

Mr King said the provisions of the Sentencing Act meant preventive detention was not applicable and called for a non-parole period of 10 years.

Justice Mark Cooper told Wallace the idea of packing his car up, picking up a hitchhiker and murdering her put the offence "in a whole new category".

"Your pre-sentence report shows nothing that mitigates this offence. You've lived a transient life where alcohol and drug abuse was common – indeed you say your use of methamphetamine meant you had no memory of the 1½ weeks you spent on the road at that time.

"You deny the crime, have not shown any measure of remorse and showed no motivation to address your offending."

He also did not co-operate with the Probation Service in preparing the report.

"There are no mitigating factors," Justice Cooper said.

Wallace, who had previous convictions including one for the abduction and rape of a young woman in 1984, picked up Ms Brauer as she hitchhiked between Wanganui and New Plymouth.

He drove her to Lucy's Gully where he beat her in the head with a metal bar, then dragged her into bush and stabbed her once through the heart.

When arrested 18 days later after a manhunt in the lower North Island, Wallace told police he didn't want to hurt people but he had, and said he'd be better off if police had shot him.

He had been using drugs, including pure methamphetamine, and said he could not tell what was real and what wasn't.

Detective Senior Sergeant Grant Coward, who headed the murder investigation, said after the sentencing that the police were satisfied with the outcome.

Mr Stachurski said Miss Brauer's parents were phoned in Germany straight after today's hearing, which was 1.15am their time, and they "just wanted to extend a great big thank you to the New Zealand police".

NZPA