19 Dec 2009

Teenage killers deserve life sentences, says neighbour

8:00 am on 19 December 2009

A neighbour of the elderly Opotiki man murdered by two teenage girls says their life sentences are deserved.

John Rowe, 78, a retired teacher, was found dead in his bed last year. He had been attacked with a broom handle and a walking stick.

Courtney Churchward, aged 17 at the time, and Lori-Lea Te Wini, who was 14, were found guilty of his murder at a trial in November, and on Friday, when they appeared for sentencing at the High Court in Rotorua, they were given life in prison, with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years.

Mr Rowe's 86-year-old neighbour, Douglas Gibson, says he has no sympathy for the two girls. They went to rob a defenceless man, he says, and smashed him to pieces.

The police have described the killing as especially violent and cowardly. The officer who led the investigation into Mr Rowe's death, Detective Inspector Rob Jones, says that in his view the two girls have been unremorseful about the murder.