Man sentenced to life for boarding house murder

9:08 pm on 13 December 2016

One of two men found guilty of killing a man at a Nelson boarding house last year has been sentenced to life in prison.

Ronayne Dempsey

Ronayne Dempsey Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

In the High Court in Nelson this afternoon, Justice Clifford imposed a minimum term of 12 years without parole on Ronayne Dempsey, who was found guilty of murder in September.

Bruce Mortimer, 46, died of his injuries after being attacked at the Franklyn Village hostel in July 2015.

The second attacker, Timothy Brunsell, 18, was earlier found guilty of manslaughter and today sentenced to two years and eight months.

The pair were found guilty after a trial this year.

The victim's daughter, Chelsea Mortimer, said Brunsell's shattered life as a young man was no excuse for what he and Dempsey had done to Mr Mortimer and his family and friends.

Ms Mortimer shook uncontrollably as she faced the pair in court, and told them her father was more than a fellow tenant in the hostel.

'Senseless violence'

The judge said the events began as a disagreement over morphine tablets that had gone missing from Mr Mortimer's room some days earlier.

He said the jury's verdict showed that, while Brunsell did not know what Dempsey had in mind, he helped him when he was fighting Mr Mortimer.

After the attack, Mr Mortimer was flown to Wellington for specialist surgery - but it was too late and the family had to switch off his life support, he said.

"That is an awful decision for any person to have to make as a family member. It is even harder when the cause of death is as here - senseless violence."

Justice Clifford said Dempsey, who would turn 29 later this week, had a long history of violence coupled with alcohol and drug abuse.

Timothy Brunsell

Timothy Brunsell Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

Brunsell was described as having a social disorder that meant he did not know how to cope in the world. The judge said it was one of several mitigating factors in his case.

Brunsell's lawyer, Tony Bamford, said his remorse was genuine.

"He does wish to acknowledge the words of Ms Chelsea Mortimer. He has shed many tears himself for what he has been involved in. He understands there's a significant amount of grief that the Mortimer family has experienced and will no doubt continue to experience," Mr Bamford said.

But Ms Mortimer said they had both made the decision to brutally attack her father, ignoring his screams for help, and she could not accept Brunsell's troubled childhood was responsible.

"You could have used your hard childhood to become a better person and make something of your life. Instead you chose to cause hurt and suffering not only to my father but all those who loved him.

"I hope the thought of what you've both done to my dad haunts you for the rest of your lives because seeing my dad laying there on life support, beaten and bruised, was the last time I ever saw him alive, and that image is ingrained in my memory and forever will be," she said.

Justice Clifford said while there was little he could do to lessen the pain for Mr Mortimer's family, he believed that prison offered some hope to Brunsell, in that it could offer stability.

"Prison may provide some structure you in your life you can benefit from, and that you can build on."