'Cowardly' killer gets 15 years jail

A man who walked into the Nelson police station after strangling his former partner and leaving her body in a van outside must serve a minimum of 15 years in jail.

Michael William Beca, 46, eventually pleaded guilty to the March, 2012 murder of his former partner Lisa Maree Corbett, 37, in October this year.

He strangled the mother-of-three in the van, while her then five-year-old daughter was also in the vehicle, after stopping near the Spooner Range lookout south of Nelson.

In the High Court at Nelson today, Corbett's relatives angrily confronted Beca as they made their victim impact statements.

The family members were given name suppression. One man said Beca was a "cowardly animal".

"Life is just not the same any more, because you murdered Lisa."

The man said Ms Corbett's daughter, who was in the van, suffered from constant nightmares and was scared of "monsters".

"Look at me scum," he told Beca.

"I have some more to say to you, but I wasn't allowed to say it. I bet you can imagine."

A woman told Beca: "You had no right to take her (Ms Corbett) from us."

She said she was afraid of the dark, wondering if there was a murderer hiding in the closet.

"It's something that's going to be with us forever."

After she had finished her statement another man stood up and stared at Beca: "When I get my hands on you, you are going to wish you were dead."

Crown prosecutor Jackson Webber said it was a callous murder, characterised by a lack of feeling.

"She (Ms Corbett) must have feared for her child as she died."

Mr Webber said Beca had selfishly and arrogantly manipulated the legal system. By refusing to plead and co-operate with police and the courts, he prolonged the case to the point that it had cost as much as a trial would have.

Defence lawyer Gerald Nation said Beca wanted to make it clear he had taken responsibility for his actions, and the family had no need to be afraid of him.

Mr Nation said Beca killed Ms Corbett because he had become convinced that she was passing information about him to gang members, who wanted to "hit" him.

Beca was in an irrational state of panic and anxiety at the time, partly due to pathological personality disorders.

Police had neither confirmed nor denied Beca's claims that he had been a police informant for 20 years, which meant the court had to proceed on the assumption that it was true, Mr Nation said.

He said Beca's "need to have that background acknowledged" was the reason he had delayed proceedings at court.

Justice Collins said the murder was "chillingly unemotive".

He sentenced Beca to life in prison, with a minimum non-parole period of 15 years.

Beca had Ms Corbett's five-year-old daughter with him when he walked into the Nelson police station on March 12 last year and told police there was a body in a vehicle parked outside.

The girl was placed into Child, Youth and Family custody after Beca was arrested, until her Dunedin-based relatives travelled to Nelson to pick her up.

Beca had refused to co-operate with police, report writers, lawyers and other justice staff. He had changed his legal representation several times, and at one point asked to defend himself.

Ms Corbett, who lived at the Brook Motor Camp in Nelson, had been in an on-again off-again relationship with Beca. Beca, of no fixed abode, had lived at the camp, where he and Ms Corbett met, but moved out months before the killing.