Victim's family in agony after murder

SENTENCED: Matthew Kinghorn in court.
SENTENCED: Matthew Kinghorn in court.

The husband of murdered New Plymouth jogger Annie McCullough has been left angered and frustrated that a judge has not handed down a harsher sentence to her "depraved, callous and evil" killer.

In the High Court at New Plymouth yesterday morning, Justice Rodney Hansen sentenced Matthew Kinghorn, 28, to the mandatory life sentence for murder and ruled a non-parole period of 13 years.

Last night, Crown solicitor Cherie Clarke confirmed that she had referred the matter to the Solicitor-General to decide whether an appeal against the sentence should be filed.

VERDICT ISSUED: Family of murdered woman Annie McCullough. Ollie McCullough, Anne's son, Jeff McCullough, Anne's husband, and Rhys Flavel, Anne's brother.
VERDICT ISSUED: Family of murdered woman Annie McCullough. Ollie McCullough, Anne's son, Jeff McCullough, Anne's husband, and Rhys Flavel, Anne's brother.

Justice Hansen rejected Crown submissions that Kinghorn should receive between a 17-to-20-year minimum parole period.

Clarke said that Kinghorn, who pleaded guilty on October 18, deliberately ran down the defenceless McCullough while she was out jogging on October 20 last year.

"It was a sudden, unprovoked attack with a lethal weapon," Clarke said.

"He had to turn the car around and line her up to hit her."

In doing so, Kinghorn should receive the longer non-parole period because the murder was carried out during the commission of another serious crime in that he intended to sexually assault McCullough and kidnap her.

Clarke said Kinghorn should also receive the longer non-parole period because McCullough was vulnerable and the murder was excessively brutal and callous.

Kinghorn's actions, when he turned the car around and veered onto the grass to hit her was sexually motivated - but he had mistakenly killed his victim instead of maiming her.

He had bought lubricants and party pills from a sex shop that morning and had been driving around in his car filled with pornography magazines and was sexually aroused.

Clarke agreed with the judge that there was no proof that McCullough was sexually assaulted after she was hit.

However, there was overwhelming evidence that sexual offending was going to occur, Clarke said.

The judge also gave Kinghorn credit for remorse saying King-horn handed over a letter of apology the day before sentencing and offered to take part in a restorative justice meeting with the family.

Late yesterday, McCullough's husband Jeff told the Taranaki Daily News that the judge's decision had left him without the closure he had expected.

He was left angry that the judge found his wife was not vulnerable and ruled there was not extreme brutality in Kinghorn's actions.

It also offended him that the judge, whose job was to represent the community, was disrespectful to his wife when he mispronounced his wife's name throughout sentencing. "That was really disappointing to me."

In court yesterday morning for the sentencing, the public gallery was close to full with family members and friends of the well-loved popular woman, the mother to Ollie, 17, and Grace, 24.

Her two sisters, Jane Armond and Sue Cox, Ollie and husband read of the devastating effect of her death in their victim impact statements to Judge Rodney Hansen.

Armond told Kinghorn, who sat in the dock looking down and frowning, that the choice he made that Saturday to run down her sister was "callous, monstrous and depraved".

In killing their Annie he had shattered the lives of all who knew her.

"There will always be a dark stain on our lives. You never gave her a chance that day."

Her sister, Sue Cox choked on her words as she told Kinghorn life would never be the same.

"The deep sadness you caused will never leave our family."

Son Ollie told of his extreme anger that his happy life had been turned upside down. "I struggle with why you took my mum's life and for what? You have ruined my life. Why you had to do this I guess I will never know."

Husband Jeff described the growing fear and foreboding he experienced when Annie did not come home that day.

He suffered never-ending sadness, lack of sleep, extreme fatigue and migraines in a nightmare he could not wake up from.

There was confusion over how or why it happened. "You never get over something like this, you just have to live with it."

He struggled to speak when describing the guilt he felt that she might not have gone out for a jog that day if he had not gone for a bike ride himself that morning.

The couple's labour of love, their Barrett Rd lifestyle block, had to be sold because her loss of income made it unaffordable.

"All our hopes and dreams were stolen. I feel cheated for myself, Annie and our kids."

The couple were to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary this year.

He was left with disgust and hatred for the "gutless person who did this to my beautiful wife".

Her killer's actions were "cold, calculated, callous and evil and you did this to an amazing, beautiful woman."

The best way he now had to honour her life was to strive to be a good man and father to their children.

Defence lawyer Julian Hannam said Kinghorn never denied killing Mrs McCullough in a deliberate action but absolutely denied his action was sexually motivated.

The judge extended his deepest sympathy to those in court at the loss of the devoted wife and mother.

He gave tribute to the dignity of those who read their statements to the court.

The judge told Kinghorn his actions had "ripped the heart out of this family and left a void that can never be filled".

Kinghorn had Ritalin and alcohol in his blood and it appeared he took party pills and probably inhaled butane.

It could have been this lethal mixture which unleashed his demons, the judge said.

Outside court, the family said the sentence changed nothing for them. "Nothing is going to bring her back," said Annie McCullough's brother Rhys Flavell, who travelled from Saudi Arabia.

Jeff McCullough thanked the Crown prosecutors and police, the wider community and their friends for their huge support.

"But you can't be angry all the time or no-one will come and have a beer with you," he said.

Taranaki Daily News