Hunter sentenced over death

ANDREW MEARS: Pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
ANDREW MEARS: Pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

A Hamilton man who shot and killed a Lower Hutt woman as she brushed her teeth at a Conservation Department campground near Turangi last year has been sentenced to 2½ in jail.

In the High Court at Rotorua this afternoon, Justice Priestly sentenced Andrew Mears, 25, of Hamilton, to two and a half years in jail, as well as $10,000 reparation for the death of Lower Hutt teacher Rosemary Ives, 25.

Mears pleaded guilty to manslaughter at Taupo District Court in December.

ROSEMARY IVES: Shot dead while brushing her teeth at a campsite.
ROSEMARY IVES: Shot dead while brushing her teeth at a campsite.

Mears had been illegally spotlighting deer with friends from the back of a ute near the Kaimanawa Forest Park campground on October 22.

He had mistakenly identified the headlight worn by Miss Ives as the eyes of a deer and shot her in the head at a distance between 15 and 26 metres.

Justice John Priestley told Mears he had "failed to exercise the judgement and commonsense" of a responsible hunter and his actions were of "sheer carelessness and stupidity."

"A much-loved young woman and talented teacher was killed by your stupidity," he said.

Mears had breached his hunting permit conditions by shooting at night in a public park and had failed to identify his target.

Mears ignored basic shooting rules and had "absolutely no idea" what was in the firing zone, he said.

It is the first time a person has been convicted of manslaughter for a hunting homicide in New Zealand, Justice Priestley said.

Home detention was not an appropriate sentence because of the seriousness of the offending.

Mears was given credit for an early guilty plea and genuine remorse and an offer to pay $10,000 to the victim's family was "reluctantly accepted" by the Ives.

They intend to donate the money to a charity.

Holding a sprig of rosemary and displaying a photograph of her daughter, Miss Ives' mother, Margaret McFarlane, delivered an emotion-charged victim impact statement. She spoke of the excruciating pain she had experienced at the loss of her firstborn, describing her as her soul mate.

She roundly criticised a justice system that did not allow for Mears' associates to be charged in relation to her daughter's death and slammed the screening of a television programme in which Mears appeared without Miss Ives' family's knowledge or approval.

She also slammed the need for a post-mortem examination of her daughter's body when the cause of her death was obvious, calling the autopsy an "unacceptable desecration" of her daughter's body.

With her daughter's death New Zealand had lost the country's first Montessori-trained secondary teacher. A secondary teacher herself, Mrs McFarlane said she could no longer continue her career and her husband was on leave without pay while helping support her in her grief.

In his victim impact statement, Miss Ives' partner Adam Hyndman, who was with her when she was shot, said her death had not been some unlucky accident.

Neither Mears nor his three associates had returned to help him and others who attempted to resuscitate Miss Ives with CPR.

He had endured seeing her die before him and continued to see images every day of her face torn apart by Mears' bullet.

"She was a joyous woman, so filled with life, our home has become an empty house," Mr Hyndman said.

Defence lawyer Roger Laybourn submitted home detention would be an appropriate sentence and not a "soft option".

Mears had fully accepted responsibility for killing Miss Ives and had apologised to her family through counsel and the media in a public expression of remorse.

It was unfortunate there had been a communication breakdown, meaning her family had not known Mears was to appear on national television. He had appeared on it not only to express his remorse but so his actions could become a deterrent to other hunters.

Mr Laybourn noted the victim's family had not been willing to participate in a restorative justice conference.

- With NZPA

The Dominion Post