20 Nov 2015

William John Murphy, attacker of elderly woman, gets unlimited jail

3:42 pm on 20 November 2015

A man who targeted elderly women in a series of home invasions has received an unlimited jail sentence to protect the community.

William John Murphy appeared in the High Court in Auckland today, where he was sentenced to a minimum of six years in prison with preventive detention.

The sentence means the 38-year-old will have to prove he is no longer a threat to society before he gets out.

Murphy's latest offending included a month-long crime spree.

It began with a visit to a hospital, where he snatched a handbag belonging to a woman visiting her sick father and stole her car.

At a retirement village, he posed as a police officer, got inside a woman's home and rifled through her handbag.

He also raided the collection plates at a church in Newmarket before stealing a set of car keys. After being confronted in the car park, he handed the keys over.

Murphy then walked around the corner and knocked on the front door of a unit at a retirement village, asking for a 'Ms Fervor of Favour'. He walked away when the woman said no such person lived there.

A short time later, she heard someone upstairs. The elderly woman went for her phone but, before she could do that, Murphy grabbed her from behind and told her not to scream.

Murphy threatened the woman and demanded cash and credit cards.

Three days later, he forced his way into another woman's home. The 79-year-old woman came home to find Murphy inside her house.

When she screamed, Murphy pushed her onto her bed and demanded the pin numbers to her credit cards. He also tied her hands with pantyhose.

Two days later, he visited another retirement village where he forced his way inside and punched an elderly woman in the face before demanding she remove her clothing. He then held a knife to her throat and demanded her pin numbers.

That woman was in the back of court today to see the sentencing and was flanked by supporters.

In a victim impact statement to the court, she said the experience was "indescribably frightening".

She expressed her fear by saying, if Murphy could do that to her, imagine what he would do to his next victim.

Murphy was only caught after a failed bag snatching in Warkworth. While driving a stolen car, he was chased by the police - and, near the Puhoi tunnel, rammed a police patrol car and was eventually caught on foot.

Previous convictions

In sentencing, Justice Woolford referred to Murphy's background, which included experiencing severe domestic violence while growing up.

He had offended regularly with past convictions for rape and indecent assault.

Murphy narrowly avoided a sentence of preventive detention in 2007, when Justice Baragwanath gave him a second chance on account of his young age - describing it as an act of mercy.

Eight years on, Justice Woolford did not give him the same opportunity.

The judge said Murphy's latest spree came while he was sentenced to intensive supervision.

He said mental health reports showed Murphy was at high-risk of reoffending, particularly against elderly women whom he mistrusted and hated but at the same time sexualised.

Justice Woolford said a sentence of preventive detention was needed to protect the community.