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The Crown says there was "clearly a sexual dimension" to Keith Donald Bonner's attack on the woman he regarded as his greatest friend, Tracey Lee Morris.
Bonner was today jailed for life for murdering Morris, with a term of 13 years before he can apply for parole.
Crown prosecutor Kathy Bell said the sexual dimension should be regarded as a significant aggravating feature at the sentencing of 53-year-old Bonner in the High Court at Christchurch.
Morris, a 46-year-old mother and bar worker at Papanui, was found dead in her car near Christchurch Airport where Bonner had left her.
Items of her clothing had been removed and she was found naked from the breasts down with her leggings still wrapped around her neck.
The leggings had been used to strangle her, leaving ligature marks, a broken larynx, and internal bruising to the throat.
She had also received head injuries which would have been life threatening. There was a bite mark on her breast.
The two had known each other for 23 years but their relationship had ended in 1994-95. They had continued to see each other.
The Crown said nothing sexual had been intended on the night of her death, when Morris visited Bonner at his house.
He had set up a bed for her in the sunroom so that she would not drive after drinking, and they had had dinner, drank wine, and Morris was apparently sitting in a chair watching a music video when she was attacked.
Defence counsel Elizabeth Bulger said Bonner was upset and remorseful but could not shed any light on what had happened.
He accepted the facts as outlined by the Crown. He had written a letter to the Morris family which had been given to the victim's mother.
She accepted what the Crown said about the sexual dimension to the attack, but pointed out that after the report of the post mortem examination on Morris, the Crown had agreed to withdraw a charge of sexual violation.
Morris' sister, Nicola Morris, told the court of the sadness and shock of the loss of her only sister, and her children's only aunt. Bonner's actions were seen as a betrayal. He had been regarded as somewhat of a father figure by Tracey Morris' son.
"She was somone he (Bonner) referred to as his greatest friend. I hope I never have a greatest friend like him," said Nicola Morris.
A victim impact statement was read by the son of Nicola Morris, and on behalf of Tracey Morris' son.
Justice Graham Lang said the pathologist had been unable to conclude whether genital injuries found on the victim were the result of sexual activity, or a kick or punch.
He said he saw it as an aggravating factor that she had been left in a way that was "bereft of dignity".
"The bite to the breast, and the way in which the body was undressed and left in that way, leads to some sexual connotations," he said.
He detailed the injuries she had received, including fractures to her skull, a broken left eye socket, broken nose, broken tooth, and extensive bruising to her face and two cuts to the back of her head. There was bruising in the genital area.
Bonner had no relevant previous convictions.
He said the pre-sentence report included details from Bonner's daughter about his increasing drinking in the period before the murder. His drinking had increased alarmingly and had brought out a dark side of his personality.
"I have no doubt that the consumption of alcohol was what caused this incident," said the judge. "Nobody, other than perhaps you, will ever know precisely what triggered it."
He noted that after the incident, which Bonner said he could not remember, he not made any inquiry about Morris' welfare after finding the blood in his lounge but had set about covering up the evidence.
- © Fairfax NZ News