Sentencing for Vanessa Pickering murder

MURDERED: Vanessa Pickering.
MURDERED: Vanessa Pickering.

The killer of Christchurch mother Vanessa Pickering has been jailed indefinitely.

Justice Christine French sentenced Malcolm George Chaston, 40, to preventive detention when he appeared in the High Court at Rangiora this afternoon for the knife murder of 27-year-old Pickering on February 8, last year.

Chaston's history of offending and lack of remorse and refusal to engage with services to deal with his criminal tendencies meant there was a strong argument for preventive detention, the judge said.

MALCOLM CHASTON: Admitted murdering Vanessa Pickering.
MALCOLM CHASTON: Admitted murdering Vanessa Pickering.

"The case for preventive detention is strong. It is clear cut.''

The sentence means he can be held in jail for the rest of his life. He will have to serve at least 20 years before being able to apply for parole.

The 20-years non-parole was imposed on the murder charge. Preventive detention and a minimum non-parole period of nine years was also imposed for a unrelated sexual violation charge.

Justice French said Chaston had insisted he attacked Pickering because she made an insulting comment about a friend, not because she denied his sexual advances.

"Vanessa was much-loved. She was only 27 with all her life before her. The family are haunted by the thoughts of Vanessa's last moments, the pain and the terror she must have suffered,'' the Judge said.

"Vanessa has been deprived of her life and theirs will never be the same again.''

Chaston had refused to meet with pyschologists to discuss his problems.

As a child he had been placed in several boys homes and lived life on the streets, she said.

This had led him to abuse solvents and join gangs. He had a total of 17 prior offences, seven of them violent and two sexual. These extended over 25 years.

The police statement of facts, parts of which were read by Crown Prosecutor Brent Stanaway, said on February 8 last year, Chaston obtained a 15cm serrated knife and the drugs morphine, ritalin, halcyon and rivitrol before he arrived at Pickering's Marine Parade, New Brighton address about 6pm.

They had met the previous year at the Belfast Meatworks where they both worked.

Pickering was preparing dinner for herself and her seven-year-old daughter when the accused arrived and, and as a result of what occurred in the house, they all left soon after in Chaston's van.

Pickering left behind her bag, cellphone and a partly prepared meal on the stove-top.

Chaston drove up Evans Pass Rd to Godley Head Rd where he parked.

He then took Pickering to a secluded paddock overlooking Taylors Mistake for what is alleged to be a sexual encounter.

Chaston attacked Pickering with the knife with such ferocity the handle broke off. Pickering had knife-cut wounds on her face, neck, chest, abdomen and both hands.

The knife cuts damaged Pickering's jugular vein and carotid artery. She died from the wounds inflicted and Chaston pulled her hooded sweatshirt over her face, took off his own sweatshirt and put it over her head. He also left his beanie and knife close to the body.

Chaston then drove off with Pickering's daughter, stopping several times to inject himself with either morphine or ritalin.

He left the distressed and crying girl in Kaiapoi. She was picked up by a passing female motorist on Tuesday, 9 February about 8pm.

Chaston arrived home at 1.15am on February 9 in an agitated state and with cuts to hands and blood on his clothing.
He changed and left again in his van returning about 5pm to collect other items including a cellphone, money and some food. He told his partner he did not know when he would be back.

He was spotted by police in Parnassus on February 11 about midday and although he tried to elude police was stopped when he drove over spikes in Cheviot. He initially told Police he was spaced out on drugs and could not remember what happened. Later he directed Police to the location of Pickering's body.

He told police he stabbed her in the eye because she was "staring at me''.

Brent Stanaway, who asked the Judge for a sentence of preventive detention, said Chaston was a repeat offender who became more violent as he got older. He had attempted to break out of prison and presented a high risk of more offending.

Craig Ruane, for Chaston, said he accepted a minimum sentence greater than 10 years would be imposed.

Much of Chaston's offending was at a "comparatively'' low level although it had got worse recently.

"I have to accept Mr Chaston has made little effort to address the cause of his offending,'' he said.

Pickering's body was found down a bank near Christchurch's Godley Head in February last year, three days after she went missing from her New Brighton home.

The Press