Karaoke brought 'gentle soul' joy

MURDERED: Mary Donnelly was intellectually disabled but lived independently.
MURDERED: Mary Donnelly was intellectually disabled but lived independently.

Murder victim Mary Donnelly loved lots of things in life. She especially loved singing racy, upbeat karaoke. Lady Gaga and Pink were among her favourites and she did a great version of Axel F's Crazy Frog.

"She was very animated, a joy to listen to," said Fiona Skinner, a founding member of the Upper Hutt Cosmopolitan Club karaoke group.

"Always stuff that made the crowd happy," recalls Dean Mallinder, another club member.

Since Donnelly was killed aged 38 in August 2012, the club has established a memorial competition cup in her name. Not a cup for best singer, but for crowd favourite.

In the last year of her life, Donnelly had realised her dream of living independently despite having intellectual impairment, a Wellington court was told yesterday.

She won community art awards for her paintings, especially of mountains, loved computer gaming, and played tenpin bowls at least once a week.

And she went to karaoke at the club every Thursday and every second Sunday, as well as singing at other clubs. "She lived and breathed it," Mallinder said.

When she sang, the impediment that affected her speaking voice seemed to disappear, according to a cousin's statement read in the High Court yesterday.

Donnelly was strangled in the Upper Hutt flat where she had been so happy, the court was told.

Prosecutor Emma Light read the victim impact statements of Donnelly's younger sister Donna, and two cousins, who said they were heartbroken at the violent death of an innocent, fun-loving woman, and "a gentle soul".

Her sister said she felt sick thinking about Kharn Tamaka, the killer of Donnelly.

Tamaka, who turns 30 next week, pleaded guilty to murdering her on August 29, 2012, at Upper Hutt. Had he not admitted the crime, police say they could have presented a wealth of evidence against him.

Detective Senior Sergeant Dave Thornton said the prosecution would also have wanted to call evidence of Tamaka committing a similar offence in the past. In March 2009, he had gone to the home of a woman he knew and was invited in.

In an incident with similarities to the attack on Donnelly, he had indecently assaulted the woman and injured her. Tamaka has been sentenced to serve at least 12 years of a life term for the murder of Donnelly.

Justice Ron Young said the killing was shocking. She had been especially vulnerable because of her intellectual impairment.

There was some suggestion of sexual contact. It was unclear how well Ms Donnelly knew Tamaka, a former neighbour. He did not explain why he killed her.

A report on him said he had a "miserable" childhood and had some degree of impairment himself, stemming from oxygen deprivation at birth.

He had a history of aggressive sexual behaviour, beginning at age 8. He was abused and exposed to gang violence.

At the time he killed Donnelly, he was said to have been grossly intoxicated.

The Dominion Post