A man found guilty of murdering a Palmerston North drug dealer who disappeared in 2002 has been sentenced to life imprisonment.
Stephen Hudson, 39, who will spend at least 16 years in jail, was led from the court still protesting his innocence.
He was sentenced on Thursday morning in the High Court in Wellington, after being found guilty by a jury at his trial in November last year.
The Crown case was that Hudson killed Nicholas Pike, 22, near the Desert Road in the central North Island over a drug debt.
Lawyers for the Crown described the killing as brutal and callous and sought a minimum non-parole period.
However, members of Hudson's family said he was with them in Masterton at the time the killing occurred and they continued to protest his innocence in court.
Detective Sergeant Dave Clifford believes, however, that the right man has been convicted and hopes that Hudson may one day reveal where Mr Pike's body is, so it can be returned to his family.
However, Hudson's birth mother Christina Billings says she stands by the alibi evidence she gave for her son during the trial last year.
and hopes Mr Pike's body will one day be found and there'll be proof Hudson had nothing to do with his disappearance.