The killer of veteran journalist Derek Round repaid the elderly man's kindness with gross violence, a judge has said in the High Court at Wanganui this morning.
Michael Umanui Werahiko, 32, was released from a short prison sentence the day he killed Mr Round on May 16, last year.
In July Werahiko pleaded guilty to murdering the 77-year-old but in court today he sacked his lawyers, said he wanted to plead not guilty.
Justice Ron Young suppressed the discussion he had with Werahiko about his situation, and sentenced him to serve at least 15 years of a life imprisonment term.
The judge said Mr Round had showed Werahiko great kindness and an interest in him when most others would not have.
"He didn't need to help you but he did out of kindness and decency and in the end you repaid him with the gross violence that killed him," the judge said.
The family of Derek Round say the memory of the violence he suffered is more than they can bear.
"No admission of guilt, or conviction, can make up for the void left by the murder of our father," they said in a statement after the sentencing.
"The only solace for us is that the police and their untiring work were able to give us and our father some justice."
Justice Young said Mr Round and Werahiko became friends after meeting at a Whanganui gym. Over about six months in 2011 Werahiko told Mr Round that he wanted to turn his life around and Mr Round said he would support that.
But in the meantime Werahiko committed more offences and was sentenced to a short term of jail.
On the day of his release he drank alcohol on the bus back to Whanganui and Mr Round met him at the bus stop. They bought more alcohol and drank at Mr Round's house.
Werahiko went into town and was disruptive, abusive and threatening people in bars.
He returned to Mr Round's house late in the evening and fell asleep. When he woke he punched Mr Round in the face and attacked him.
Mr Round was kicked and stomped. He tried to crawl away but Werahiko continued the attack.
Werahiko took Mr Round's car and returned to the house the next morning. Seeing that Mr Round had not moved he told a passerby to tell police of the death.
Mr Round had extensive injuries to his head, neck and torso.
The judge said victim impact statements from Mr Round's family said he was a kind, intelligent man and a highly respected journalist. He was a loving and much loved father and grandfather.
Crown prosecutor Lance Rowe said the way Werahiko had pursued Mr Round when he was seriously injured was callous and cruel.
- The Dominion Post