10 Jun 2021

Rikki-Lee Simeon sentenced to 14 years jail for murdering partner

11:51 am on 10 June 2021

A judge has found it manifestly unjust to give an Auckland mother life imprisonment after she was found guilty of murdering her 21-year-old boyfriend Brendon Hamilton.

The High Court at Auckland

The High Court at Auckland. Photo: RNZ / Simon Rogers

Instead Rikki-Lee Simeon has been sentenced to 14 years in jail, with a minimum non-parole period of seven years.

Simeon was found guilty of murder by a jury in February and stood sobbing before Hamilton's family in the High Court at Auckland this morning.

At the time of Hamilton's death - 17 May 2019 - Simeon was 18 years old.

The couple had a daughter who was turning one that day.

The murder happened at Hamilton's Dominion Road flat, following an argument between the two.

Simeon used a kitchen knife to stab Hamilton in the neck - severing an artery and killing him in minutes.

In the hours afterwards, Simeon gave different police officers different accounts of what had happened.

Today some of Hamilton's 10 siblings, dressed in shirts with his picture printed on them, described their pain at his loss.

In victim impact statements, his sister Jamie Fruean told Simeon she had caused "so much hurt and anger to me and my family".

"I wish I wish you could feel the pain that I feel on a daily basis," said another sister, Monique Lorigan.

His mother, Adoniah Lorigan, described having a seizure on seeing her son's body in a coffin.

"No words can describe the amount of pain I have in my heart," she said.

Defence counsel Paul Borich QC asked that Simeon's "deprived and sad background", youth and mental health issues were considered, along with Hamilton's tendency for violence.

He said Simeon had an "appalling" upbringing - often left alone to look after siblings, with a gang-affiliated father and regular violence in her upbringing.

Simeon was using cannabis and alcohol at 11 years old then methamphetamine as early as 13 years old.

Borich said the murder was the result of "the perfect storm" of circumstances, and it was a reckless and spontaneous event, not premeditated.

He urged Justice Campbell to consider a finite term rather than life imprisonment.

Simeon struggled through a short tearful apology to Hamilton's family before the sentence was handed down.

"I'm sorry for what I have done. I have learnt," she said.

Justice Campbell noted that family had lost a "beloved son, brother and uncle ... someone who lit up the room."

"No sentence that I can impose can make up for his death," he said.

However he said because of a combination of factors - including her deeply flawed, violent and traumatic upbringing - it would be manifestly unjust to sentence Simeon to life imprisonment.

He noted two doctor's assessments that Simeon was most likely suffering from schizophrenia in 2019, when the murder happened.

"I agree [that] was not a direct cause but a contributing factor," Justice Campbell said.

He said he wanted to give a sentence that balanced community protection with Simeon's rehabilitation.

Justice Campbell ordered a sentence of 14 years imprisonment with a minimum period of 7 years, before Simeon will be eligible for parole.

Hamilton's family were silent as the sentence was delivered.