8 Jun 2011

Man found guilty of murdering Marice McGregor

10:06 pm on 8 June 2011

The man accused of murdering Whanganui woman Marice McGregor has been found guilty of the charge by a jury.

Dean Mulligan, 43, of Feilding, bludgeoned Ms McGregor to death in a bush-filled ravine about 50km north of Whanganui in April last year.

The 45-year-old was last seen alive collecting pine cones at Lismore Forest on 19 April 2010 and her body was discovered in early May.

Mulligan turned himself in to police on 25 May, 10 days after Ms McGregor's body was discovered and confessed to the killing, but pleaded not guilty to the murder charge when the trial began.

In the Whanganui High Court, Mulligan claimed he had been threatened by a man he said was the real killer and an accomplice who he named from the witness stand.

Police never found either man and say they don't exist.

The jury retired at 3pm on Wednesday and returned its verdict at 7.45pm.

A spokesperson for Ms McGregor's family, Martin Burgess, says they are delighted at the verdict and Mulligan made many exaggerated and unsubstantiated statements during the trial.

Mulligan will be sentenced on 1 July.

Mulligan 'a purposeful liar'

In closing submissions on Wednesday, the Crown told the court Mulligan is a purposeful liar who changed his story five times.

Prosecutor Lance Rowe said Mulligan first claimed not to have seen Ms McGregor the day she died, but later said he dropped her off after she made a sexual proposition.

The court was told Mulligan turned himself in to police on 25 May, 10 days after Ms McGregor's disappearance, admitting that he hit her with a bar accidentally when falling, then twice more in panic.

Mr Rowe says the accused next confessed to hitting her in a rage when she threatened to expose their relationship to his wife.

Finally in court, Mulligan said a man who was the real killer raped him and threatened him and his family if he told police.

Mr Rowe says only Mulligan's confession of killing in a rage matched the evidence and the rest was an attempt to escape responsibility or win back his wife.

Police case difficult to unravel - defence

Defence lawyer Stephen Ross told the jury the police case is a quilt with so many loose threads it must unravel.

Mr Ross says Ms McGregor had been playing a dangerous game - meeting men from a dating website for anonymous sex.

He says Mr Mulligan took some money from her, but at least $30,000 is unaccounted for.

Mr Ross highlighted the absence of DNA evidence, questions over the iron bar the Crown says is the murder weapon, and the inability of Mr Mulligan to balance on his one leg and accurately swing a heavy bar in the deep gully where Ms McGregor was killed.

Mr Ross told the court Mr Mulligan's testimony that he had been raped by a person he claims is the real killer and an accomplice, and then threatened, is so unbelievable it might be true.