Skipper to spend 16 years in jail for killing Lower Hutt teen

5:52 pm on 8 November 2016

A man who fatally stabbed his foster daughter at their Lower Hutt home has been sentenced to life imprisonment and will spend at least 16 years behind bars.

Paul Keith Skipper at his sentencing at the High Court in Wellington.

Paul Keith Skipper Photo: RNZ / Rebecca Parsons-King

Paul Keith Skipper was sentenced in the High Court in Wellington before Justice Clark today.

His victim, 17-year-old Te Awhiahua Toko, suffered three stab wounds in an attack in her home in April and died two days later in Wellington Hospital.

During the sentencing, Skipper read a letter to Ms Toko's family and friends, apologising for taking her life.

In the days leading up to the attack, Ms Toko had told people she did not feel safe around Skipper and she had decided to spend some time staying with her boyfriend at his parents' home.

On 17 April, while she was packing up some clothes to take with her, Skipper grabbed a boning knife from the kitchen and struck her with it, once in her neck and twice in her chest.

She later died in hospital.

Several people, including her boyfriend and his parents, witnessed the attack.

In his letter Skipper said Ms Toko was loved by those who knew her, and he extinguished that light.

He said he had no understanding or explanation for his actions.

"She deserved to loved and be cared for and enjoy a long life. [That's] the only thing I can offer back to you because even now I have no understanding or explanation for the why. Altogether we raised a beautiful young lady and I'm sorry I hurt you all."

But Justice Clark said there was a degree of pre-meditation to the attack because Skipper waited until the other adults had left the house then locked the door, isolating Ms Toko from their protection.

"The attack was brutal and cruel. You cut [her] throat, then stabbed her twice in the chest and the violence only stopped when others intervened. She effectively bled to death notwithstanding medical intervention."

VIDEO: Watch Teisha Paratene, the mother of Te Awhiahua Toko, speak outside the High Court after the sentencing:

In a victim impact statement, Ms Toko's eldest sister, Melissa Toko, said Ms Toko had grown into an awesome role model.

"She was a community worker, a model, and had lots of opportunities. Her upbringing was not kind to her but I knew she would be the one out of all of us who would break free from that lifestyle. Everything since her death hurts so bad."

A statement from Ms Toko's boyfriend, Nathaniel Gonzalez, was read to the court by his father, Matthew Gonzalez.

Mr Gonzalez said he often questioned his own actions on the day she died.

"What if I'd been faster or stronger? Could I have then protected her? We were so close to starting our adult lives together and to achieving her dreams. I miss her dearly."

Defence lawyer Quentin Duff said his client had pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity and he and his partner had taken in other family members, as well as Ms Toko.

"He shouldered responsibility for caring for Awhi for the last eight years and though he has completely contradicted that love with this act, he ... did love her."

Justice Clark said in recent years Skipper had becoming increasingly possessive and overbearing, especially about Ms Toko having boyfriends.

She said he had also twice physically assaulted the young woman, the first time because she did not answer him.

"You punched and slapped her on the back and only stopped when a family member intervened and pulled you away."

Justice Clark said the second assault occurred in 2015 and Skipper was angry because the teen had received texts from her friends.

"There was an argument and you punched her as she lay on floor of her bedroom. [That] assault continued until a family member intervened."

Justice Clark gave Skipper a one-year sentence discount to recognise his early guilty plea and the fact he was a first time offender.