Murderer Aaron McDonald is jailed for 21 years

03:17, Aug 28 2014
Aaron McDonald
ADMITS MURDER: Aaron Rhys McDonald has been sentenced to life in prison.

Aaron Rhys McDonald was today sentenced to life for murder with a non-parole term of 21 years after a terrible crime spree which left a woman dead and two hitchhikers badly injured.

McDonald, 39, who has 68 previous convictions and is assessed as a high risk reoffender, was also sentenced to an open-ended preventive detention term. Almost all details have been suppressed about his victims and their families.

The suppression was imposed at the High Court in Christchurch today after a reporter went to the home of the murder and rape victim seeking an interview.

Justice Christian Whata told the media the visit had caused significant distress.

"The parents have suffered greatly because of their daughter's rape and murder. They are in need of privacy."

The judge imposed a suppression order on the name of the 24-year-old Christchurch caregiver who McDonald admitted sexually violating and murdering.

He then travelled to the West Coast. He admitted charges of robbing two women hitchhikers travelling from overseas, and causing both of them grievous bodily harm. He also admitted reckless driving arising from a police chase which ended with a long stand-off near Franz Josef.

Aaron Rhys McDonald
ADMITS MURDER: Aaron Rhys McDonald, appearing via videolink at the High Court at Christchurch, during an earlier hearing.

The judge suppressed publication of the summary of facts concerning the rape and murder, and the name of the victim, and the victim impact statement read in court and the others handed to the judge.

He suppressed the names of the two hitchhikers involved because media attention had been disproportionate and had caused the women undue hardship.

Justice Whata said McDonald had picked up the women hitchhikers at Whataroa. He threatened them with a metal bar, and robbed them. One of them got away by jumping or being pushed from the moving car, causing a deep abrasion, and concussion.

When McDonald did a u-turn, the other woman believed her friend was going to be run over as she lay on the road. She got a knife from her pack, held it to McDonald's throat, and in the struggle that followed he got the knife from her and stabbed her in the neck three or four times, before she got out of the car.

McDonald threw molotov cocktails at the police who pursued him and caught him after a stand-off hours later.

Crown prosecutor Claire Boshier told the court that all the victims said they did not wish to speak to the media. They asked to be treated with courtesy and compassion as required under the Victims' Rights Act. They asked that media respect their dignity and privacy. Media actions had compounded their distress.

She said McDonald's offending warranted a starting point for the non-parole term of 23 to 24 years, with a reduction for his early guilty pleas.

McDonald now professed remorse, but she argued that it was "at superficial level". He had a long-standing drug addiction and had undergone lengthy rehabilitation programmes without success.

She argued that an open-ended preventive detention sentence was warranted because of the on-going risk of further serious sentencing that he posed to the community. The court could have no confidence that he would engage in meaningful treatment.

Defence counsel Elizabeth Bulger said it had been a terrible set of offending which had resulted in the loss of a precious young woman, and trauma and distress for the other victims. McDonald was on parole at the time and his offending had been fuelled by methamphetamine.

She said that preventive detention was not warranted, because there was not a pattern of violent or sexual offending on his record, and he would receive a long sentence in any case.

Justice Whata said there was nothing in McDonald's childhood that would explain his offending. His adult years had been blighted by drug use. His criminal behaviour started in early adolescence and later involved a brutal assault on an elderly woman.

He said he had received a letter from McDonald apologising to the murder victim's family.

McDonald's offending fell beyond the normal range for murder, and an increase in the term was warranted. His attempts to express remorse had been belated and he lacked insight into his offending.

He imposed the minimum non-parole term of 21 years on the murder charge, and then decided to also impose preventive detention because the offending was in the most serious category and the on-going risk McDonald posed was high.


The Press