Confronting killer provides relief for family

JAMES GREENLAND
Last updated 13:00 11/12/2013
Michael Beca
Fairfax NZ
GUILTY: Michael Beca, 46, was jailed for murdering Lisa Maree Corbett.
Lisa Maree Corbett
Lisa Maree Corbett

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The family of murdered Nelson woman Lisa Maree Corbett, who was killed by a former partner within earshot of her youngest child, say confronting her killer has put them back in control.

Michael William Beca, 46, was yesterday sentenced to a minimum of 15 years in prison for the "callous" murder of Ms Corbett, 37, on the Spooner Range near Nelson in March last year.

After a protracted court case, Beca eventually admitted strangling Ms Corbett in the back of a van while her 5-year-old daughter was in the front seat.

Five members of Ms Corbett's close family watched the sentencing from the public gallery in the High Court at Nelson.

They angrily and emotionally confronted Beca through their victim impact statements, calling him a "cowardly animal" and telling him he had no right to take Ms Corbett's life.

Her mother said it was their chance to take the power back from Beca, who had manipulated and delayed the legal process for months after initially admitting the murder to police.

The whole family was feeling stronger after speaking in court, she said.

"Today was our day, our turn to say what we felt. I think everyone deserves that."

One man threatened Beca, saying he would kill him if he had the chance, and that he hoped he would meet his match in prison.

"Beca handed himself a death sentence and Lisa's family a life sentence," he said.

Ms Corbett's brother said the family now had "a sense of closure, and hope to now move forward".

"It's putting the grieving process behind us, finally," her father added.

"We are happy with the sentence, but no matter what it was, it doesn't change anything. Our daughter will not be coming back."

Born in Dunedin in 1975, Ms Corbett grew up in the South Island. She moved to Nelson in 2006, and lived most recently at the Brook Valley Holiday Park with her youngest daughter.

"She was a good mum. She loved her three girls," her mother said. "She was a lot of fun."

She said Ms Corbett loved to collect shells on Tahunanui Beach and wander the bush tracks in the Brook Valley.

"She absolutely loved living in Nelson. She wrote poetry here."

Ms Corbett's youngest daughter, who was in the van, has since moved south to live with family. Although traumatised, she was as happy as a seven-year-old could be without her mum, Ms Corbett's mother said.

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"She is settling into school nicely. She has a very close family - her grandparents are now her parents."

Only Ms Corbett's daughters had met Beca before the murder.

"As far as I knew, she was happy," her eldest daughter said.

"I didn't see anything was wrong."

Despite the lack of warning signs in her mother's case, the teenager said she wanted to send a message to Kiwi women who were stuck in violent relationships.

"Domestic violence is a big problem in this country. I just think it's important that women know there is a way out, and that they can tell people what's going on before it gets this far."

Ms Corbett's father thanked everyone involved with bringing Beca to justice, including Nelson police detectives and court staff, lawyers, Child, Youth and Family, and Victim Support workers.

He said the delays in the case were extremely frustrating, and went to show what kind of man Beca was. However, the family understood that the legal process needed to proceed correctly to ensure a conviction.

He said it had been a long time coming, but yesterday justice was done.

Now it was time to move forward, to remember and to celebrate Ms Corbett's life, he said.

- The Nelson Mail

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