Liberty Templeman's killer jailed

Liberty Templeman.
Liberty Templeman.

Theodorus Hermanus Kriel has been sentenced to life in prison, serving a minimum of 11 and half years, for the murder of Liberty Rose Templeman.

"Life imprisonment means just that. Unless you satisfy the prison board otherwise, you will be in jail for the rest of your life," Justice Raynor Asher told Kriel, 16.

Kriel, aged 14 at the time, beat and strangled Liberty, 15, in November, 2008, and dumped her body in a Kerikeri creek. He was found guilty of murder and indecent assault after a trial last month.

TEENAGE MURDERER: Hermanus Theodorus Kriel.
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TEENAGE MURDERER: Hermanus Theodorus Kriel.

The judge said today that the fact that Kriel was a youth and not a very mature one at the time of the murder was a factor in his crime.

"At the time of the murder, although possessed with considerable height and strength, you were immature.

"Your calmness in the days that followed was of a concern, it was a blankness," the judge said, describing Kriel's behaviour as childish.

"I accept that your terrible action was out of character; this is confirmed by the professional reports that have been prepared in the 18 months that you have been in custody."

Justice Asher said he was entirely satisfied that the attack on Liberty was unprovoked.

Kriel, 16, sat between two guards in the dock during the sentencing, with his shaved head dipped low. He wore a white and grey striped shirt and loose pants, and his eyes shifted across to Templeman family members and later towards the judge.

"The damage is not just limited to you, it extends to Liberty's close group of friends who will live their life with the loss of such a close and dear friend," the judge said.

The wider Kerikeri community had been shocked by this brutal and inexplicable killing.

"She was a very special and talented woman, with a very exciting future," the judge said.

Justice Asher said he had no doubt that it was a chance circumstance that Liberty and Kriel had ended up walking together. The exact details of what happened after the pair crossed over the bridge on their walk together was unclear.

"You are the only living witness and you have given four different version of events," the judge said to Kriel.

The judge speculated that Kriel had made a sexual advance towards Liberty, and that she had punched Kriel.

After that attack, Kriel had acted as if nothing had happened and glibly lied to Liberty's parents and then police.

"On the Friday you came into the police station with your parents ... In that third statement you confessed to killing Liberty," the judge said.

Kriel is the eldest son of South African immigrants who settled in New Zealand more than seven years ago.

The Templemans also emigrated to New Zealand. Liberty was originally from Essex, United Kingdom, and moved here with her parents in 2005.

The 30 seats at the back of the Whangarei court room were filled for the sentencing.

VICTIM IMPACT

Liberty's parents, Andrew and Rebecca Templeman, comforted their 13-year-old son Billy during the sentencing.

Earlier, Mrs Templeman had delivered an emotional victim impact statement.

"Every morning when I wake, for a few seconds, everything feels okay," she said.

"With the privacy of my bathroom with the door shut, I can cry loud and let the water wash away the pain and the grief and I put on a mask of a warm smile," she said.

She looked over to Kriel towards the end of her statement and he looked down to the ground.

"We saw the marks on her face, the bruising on her face. The battered and bruised face of the girl who saw the good in everyone," Mrs Templeman said.

Liberty's father, Andrew, said that, had it not been for the support of his family, he would have taken his own life.

"How do you summarise the emptiness that accompanies the loss of your daughter?" he asked.

"I smile and cry in equal measure when I think of Liberty."

Liberty's brother Billy told the court of his pain at his sister's brutal slaying.

PROSECUTION

Prosecution lawyer Michael Smith spoke of Kriel's deliberate deception following Libby's murder. 

"The very person they (Libby's parents) spoke to for help and guidance in finding out where Libby was and how she got there was in fact the person responsible for her death."

Mr Smith asked that Kriel's age be put aside in considering a base level sentence.

"He didn't want others to know, he didn't want her to speak about what he had done to Liberty on the river bank.

"There was a degree of foresight which lifts this crime into a higher level of depravity." 

DEFENCE

Defence lawyer Catherine Cull made a submission about Kriel's youth and immaturity, and the fact he had not shown any violent propensity while in custody.

"I'm not submitting that he has any disability," she said.

"What I'm saying is his conduct to date is a factor you may need to look at,"  she told the judge.

She said the Kriel family's decision not to make a bail application or speak to the media did, to an extent, show that he accepted responsibility, "but only to a degree".

"They have not and will not be involved in any media comment," she said.

"They've dealt with their grief in a quiet and respectful manner."

"He understands what's going to happen to him inevitably. Understands what's done to the Templemans, Kerikeri and his own family."

It will now be determined whether Kriel should serve the start of his sentence in an adult or youth prison.

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