16 Dec 2015

Murder 'callous to very high level'

8:30 pm on 16 December 2015

Murderer Michael Preston purposely left the knife in his estranged wife Mei Fan's neck as a final insult to her, and to mark his victory.

That was how the judge put it today as he jailed the Wellington man for life with no chance of parole for at least 19 years.

Michael Preston at the High Court in Wellington about to be sentenced for the murder of Mei Fan.

Michael Preston in the High Court in Wellington today. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Last month, a jury in the High Court in Wellington found Ms Fan's former husband guilty of her murder. Preston was also found guilty of breaching a protection order.

The victim statements left their readers, including a police constable, in tears but Preston remained impassive throughout.

Preston, 60, killed Ms Fan the day after he was issued with the protection order.

Watch a video of Detective Senior Sergeant John van den Heuvel, who led the investigation, and Ms Fan's former boyfriend Tani Hoyhtya speaking outside court:

In an emotionally-charged courtroom, Justice Williams said Preston's crime was exceptionally brutal.

"All murders are by definition brutal and cruel, but this killing was brutal, cruel and indeed callous to a very high level."

He said that was obvious from the wounds inflicted on Ms Fan and it was hard to imagine the horror of her last moments of life.

Justice Williams said Preston purposely left the knife in Ms Fan's neck as she died in a pool of blood on her laundry floor from 38 stab wounds at her Miramar home.

She tried in vain to protect herself and received wounds to her arms and hands as she tried to fend Preston off, he said.

"It is impossible to imagine the horror of her last minutes of life as you went about this execution," he said. "This was deeply personal."

Justice Williams said Preston's attempt to set up other people as the possible murderer, and the mistakes he made, eventually caught him out.

Family and former boyfriend heartbroken

A police constable read out a statement from Ms Fan's 72-year-old father, Mao Yi Fan, in which he said the last conversation he had with Ms Fan two days before her death was very unsettling.

Mr Fan wrote of Ms Fan's kindness and how she would send money and medicine, and said her murder had made him and his wife severely ill and penniless.

He said that when Ms Fan and Preston had lived in China, her former husband was often violent, sleazy and lazy. He knew it was Preston who had murdered her, he said.

Mr Fan said the tragic death had torn their heart to pieces and, when told the news, he suffered a second stroke and was rushed to hospital.

The constable reading the statement became overwhelmed as he told the court Mr Fan's younger brother suffered a breakdown and became critically ill after hearing the news.

Mr Fan described Preston as extraordinarily cunning and bitter.

Mei Fan's former boyfriend, Tani Hoyhtya holding a photo of Ms Fan that he's giving to the New Zealand police for their work.

Mei Fan's former boyfriend Tani Hoyhtya holding a photo of Ms Fan to give to police in thanks for their work. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Ms Fan's former boyfriend Tani Hoyhtya, who is from Finland, said he could not forgive her killer.

Shaking as he read his victim statement, Mr Hoyhtya told Preston, who had never admitted his guilt, that he could not describe the hatred he felt towards him.

"I had everything but then lost Mei, the love of my life. Without her, everything is meaningless. I cannot live for the rest of my life with my heart filled with hate. However I am still finding forgiveness difficult as you have not confessed to your crime."

'Huge sense of relief'

Detective Senior Sergeant John van den Heuvel, who led the investigation, said the result was extremely rewarding.

"The family greet it with a huge sense of relief. We're very pleased to have been able to reach this stage and really Michael Preston, from our point of view, it's 'good riddance'.

"I can't deny that sentencing was hugely emotional for everybody that witnessed it, including all the police officers."

When asked if police failed Ms Fan the night before her death, when the protection order was issued, Mr van den Heuvel admitted it played on their minds.

"There is some work being done, and there are some trials I believe being conducted at the moment, and I really welcome that because we really just have to do better, for sure."

He said police and the courts were working together to improve the protection victims got once a protection order had been made.

Preston was given a one-year concurrent sentence for breaching the protection order.

Justice Williams sentencing Michael Preston in the High Court in Wellington.

Justice Williams sentencing Preston in the High Court in Wellington. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

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