Man pleads guilty to killing caregiver

Last updated 07:36 16/04/2014
Aaron Rhys McDonald
Dean Kozanic/Fairfax NZ
ADMITS MURDER: Aaron Rhys McDonald, appearing via videolink at the High Court at Christchurch, has pleaded guilty to the sexual violation and murder of 24-year-old Amy Elizabeth Farrall.
Amy Farrall
AMY FARRALL: The 24-year-old's body was found in a car at Woolston New World.

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Aaron Rhys McDonald has pleaded guilty to the sexual violation and murder of Christchurch caregiver Amy Elizabeth Farrall as part of his South Island rampage last month.

The Crown may ask for an open-ended sentence of preventive detention depending on the findings of two health assessors' reports which have now been ordered.

The 38-year-old Otaki man's name suppression was lifted when he entered his early guilty pleas before Justice Graham Panckhurst in the High Court at Christchurch, just two weeks after his original court appearance.

Justice Panckhurst remanded McDonald in custody to July 24 for sentence, and ordered a pre-sentence report and the two health assessors' reports.

McDonald, a kitchen hand who lives on Wellington's Kapiti Coast, also admitted robbing two overseas tourists who met in Nelson, Niki Honda and Michaela Brandl, of their personal belongings while armed with a weapon, a metal bar, and wounding Brandl with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

He admitted injuring Honda with intent to cause grievous bodily harm by pushing her out of a moving car.

Brandl was stabbed three times in the neck on March 30 after the pair were picked up by McDonald while hitchhiking from Whataroa to Queenstown.

McDonald admitted reckless driving on State Highway 6 on the West Coast and failing to stop for a police car using its lights and siren.

Honda, a Japanese-Dutch tourist, received pelvic injuries in the incident. Both women were treated at Christchurch Hospital and were discharged on April 7.

While the incident was unfolding near Franz Josef, police were seeking Farrall who had been reported missing in Christchurch and her body was found in her car in a supermarket carpark in Woolston. The 24-year-old had been employed as a community support worker.

Police used a police dog to end a stand-off with McDonald on the West Coast, and he received serious bites to his legs which required surgery at Christchurch Hospital.

His first court appearance was at an improvised court sitting at a hospital waiting room with Judge Noel Walsh conducting the session.

McDonald was granted interim name suppression at that stage and remanded in custody to the High Court today. Because more surgery was expected, ordering of a psychiatric report was delayed until his next court appearance at the request of defence counsel Elizabeth Bulger because he would remain medicated.

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No summary of facts was read at the hearing today because it has not been finalised. Prosecutor Chris Lange said the Crown was still awaiting reports on forensic testing.

He asked for the two health assessors' reports to be prepared ahead of sentencing, which may mean preventive detention will be sought depending on the risk assessment in the reports.

McDonald spoke to the court by video-link from the prison. He pleaded guilty clearly as the charges were read and nodded to the judge when he was remanded in custody for sentence. The defence did not seek continuation of the name suppression order.


McDonald had only been out of prison for six months and was still on parole at the time of the murderous rampage.

He was sentenced in the Palmerston North District Court in May 2009 to five years and three months jail for an array of crimes including burglary, theft, arson and manufacturing methamphetamine.

He was freed on parole from Rimutaka Prison last October. At a hearing a month earlier, the Parole Board ruled the man's risk to the community could be "adequately mitigated" over the remaining nine months of his sentence.

"He has tentatively proposed that in time he may work with a friend in Christchurch, " the board's decision said.

The special conditions of his release meant he was not allowed to consume and possess alcohol, illicit drugs and synthetic cannabis. He also had to complete rehabilitation programmes.

Corrections Services national commissioner Jeremy Lightfoot said a fortnight ago that a review would be undertaken to make sure the department's supervision of McDonald "met our standards".

"While we do not normally comment ahead of the court process, I thought it important to reassure the public that our initial inquiries show that this offender had met his parole conditions up to the point of his last reporting in to us on 18 March," Lightfoot said.

"Our probation staff were in regular contact with him and those he was living with."

An application to have McDonald recalled to prison would be lodged with the Parole Board.

- The Press

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