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Teen jailed for 13 year for hammer murder

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 28/10/2016

Wracked with sobs the mother of a Kawerau man murdered by a former flatmate who rained 24 hammer blows to his head and face became too upset to complete her description of the effects her son's death had on his family.

Crown prosecutor Greg Hollister-Jones took over the task in the High Court at Rotorua where Wyjuana Smith, 18, was being sentenced on Friday for murdering Todd Branch at Kawerau on March 1 this year. He'd pleaded guilty.

Justice Timothy Brewer jailed Smith for life with a minimum non-parole period of 13 years.

"If you are still violent in 13 years time the parole board will not consider letting you out," the judge told him.

He described how Smith went to Mr Branch's home, waiting for an hour in the kitchen before attacking him with the hammer he'd brought with him.

"You rained down blows many times with it, mostly while he was on the floor, helpless," the judge said.

"You confronted him, hit him in the head with the hammer, he went down, tried to get up, that is when your tendency to sudden rage exerted itself and you rained blows on his face and head some leaving circular indents in his skull and face."

Justice Brewer noted Mr Branch had taken Smith and others in as flatmates in a house owned by his mother who evicted the group because of the damage they caused.

He outlined Smith's "dreadful" upbringing which included physical and emotional neglect and no secure figure to guide him.

Mr Branch's mother opened her victim impact statement by saying while her son was 23 when he died he remained a "kid" whom she continued to provide for.

His sister told how she'd been in London on her OE when she learned of the murder and the anguish of hearing her mother sobbing from afar.

During proceedings the the judge chided Smith's lawyer Gene Tomlenson for describing the murder as not the most serious.

"I defy you to turn around and say that to Mr Branch's family," he said.

Mr Tomlinson apologised, saying he hadn't intended to offend them .

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