9 Mar 2012

Roxburgh man sentenced for wife's murder

6:39 pm on 9 March 2012

A Central Otago man who murdered his estranged wife has been sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 10 years.

Warren Johnston, 67, of Roxburgh shot his wife Lesley dead on 11 March last year before turning the gun on himself, though he later recovered in hospital.

Two weeks before the shooting, on the same day Johnston discovered he had cancer, Mrs Johnston had told him she was leaving him after 43 years of marriage.

Johnston pleaded guilty to the murder last month shortly before a trial was due to begin.

At the High Court at Dunedin on Friday, Justice Clifford described the case as a tragedy in which Johnston was under a great deal of grief and stress.

But the judge said the murder was signficantly premeditated and not one of the rare cases in which life imprisonment would be unjust.

Johnston will serve a minimum of 10 years in jail but the judge said reports showed he is very unlikely to survive the sentence.

The couple's son, Owen Johnston, told the court his family's lives have been very damaged.

He said he used to be a laidback person, but now suffers from high stress and cannot sleep.

Mr Johnston says the tragedy has left him confused, guilty that he did not visit the house 10 minutes earlier to intervene, and angry he cannot say goodbye to his mother in person.

He says he knew his parents were having troubles, and cannot understand why his father did not seek outside help.