Brutal, depraved and callous - that's how a judge described a Rotorua woman's fatal attack on her casual lover over a suspected $20 theft.
Gwenda Leigh Sloane, 44, was sentenced yesterday to life in jail for the murder of her friend and lover Michelle Hoffman-Tamm on November 7 last year. She will serve a minimum of 17 years' jail before being eligible for parole.
With a large group of Ms Hoffman-Tamm's family and friends sitting in the public gallery, Sloane covered her face with a high-collared grey sweatshirt.
She and Ms Hoffman-Tamm, 51, had an "intermittent relationship". After an all-night drinking session, she became enraged and accused Ms Hoffman-Tamm of stealing $20 from her wallet, Crown prosecutor Fletcher Pilditch told the High Court at Rotorua.
Sloane also believed Ms Hoffman-Tamm had a set of her house keys and a bankcard.
Many sitting in the public gallery were in tears as they were told Sloane stabbed Ms Hoffman-Tamm more than 30 times in the chest and back, and mutilated her body, severing both ears.
The details of the murder from the summary of facts caused several people to walk from the gallery, including Ms Hoffman-Tamm's long-time partner, Inoi Samuels, with whom she had a 15-year relationship.
Sloane, who had texted her friend to come around to her small flat for "some fun", used two knives to stab her friend.
She also grabbed a kitchen drawer to bash Ms Hoffman-Tamm over the head as she lay on the kitchen floor.
She then left the body overnight to continue to drink the remainder of three dozen beer the pair had bought earlier in the evening.
The following day Sloane wrapped the body in curtains and dragged it outside to lie overnight. The next morning she wrapped the body in rubbish bags and drove 120 kilometres in a circuitous route from Rotorua to Murupara to hide the body under piles of rubbish in a ditch in secluded forestry.
In sentencing Sloane, Justice Patrick Keane said the sustained attack on Ms Hoffman-Tamm and the efforts to conceal her body involved a high degree of brutality, depravity and callousness.
The attack warranted a 20-year prison term, he said. But he gave Sloane three years' credit for her early guilty plea.
Sloane was interviewed three times by police before admitting to the murder, and showing them where the body was hidden.
Commenting on the sentence outside court Ms Hoffman-Tamm's son, Rhys Hoffman, said: "We were hoping for more, but now we have to move on, and let Mum rest in peace and with dignity."
Mr Hoffman, 25, had earlier told the court his world had fallen apart since his mother's death.
Ms Hoffman-Tamm's daughter, Monique Hoffman-Tamm, said the sentence "was a joke".
"Seventeen years is nothing to [Sloane]."
Sloane had been treated as a family member, she said. "How could she do this?"