10 Sep 2015

Axe murderer jailed for at least 14 years

7:00 pm on 10 September 2015

The best friend of a man who went on a rampage with an axe in Upper Hutt says he'll never forgive him for the brutal murder of his mother.

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Retimana Nicholls - pictured today in the High Court in Wellington Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Retimana Nicholls, 36, was today sentenced in the High Court at Wellington to a minimum of 14-and-a-half years in prison.

He had previously pleaded guilty to murder, two charges of causing grievous bodily harm, and one charge of assault.

In December 2014, he wounded his friend Thomas Guerin with a tomahawk, before killing Mr Guerin's mother, Sandra, by striking her four times with another axe at her home.

Nicholls also wounded another man with the axe, then assaulted another woman who was walking nearby.

Thomas Guerin, son of murdered Sandra Guerin, said after court "a life for a life' when asked if he was happy with the  courts decision.

Outside court, Thomas Guerin told reporters "a life for a life" when asked for his reaction to the judge's decision. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

While reading his victim impact statement to the court, Mr Guerin said he had known Nicholls for more than 20 years and the pair had been best friends before the attack.

Mr Guerin said losing his mother had left him full of hate.

"The hate I feel against [Retimana Nicholls] after the attack is very strong. When I see him in court the hate is aroused. On one appearance he turned from the dock and said, 'sorry Tom Tom', that just cut straight through me. I will never forgive him," he said.

"These raw emotions have stayed with me for some time, and probably always will... I've been left emotionally crippled."

'Wonderful, loving person'

Other relatives spoke of the shock and horror they felt when they heard what happened, and described Nicholls as "sick" and "a monster" for what he had done to Ms Guerin.

Many relatives were in tears while reading their impact statements.

One said, "What gives someone the right to kill someone else? Do they ever stop and think of how much pain and anguish it causes?"

Another said they felt the attack had robbed them of such "a wonderful, loving person".

Justice Joe Williams

Justice Williams described Nicholls' attack as savagely brutal. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Justice Joseph Williams said Nicholls had been suffering from paranoid psychosis and had been for some time.

"There's a debate about whether your paranoia came from an underlying mental illness or from drug use or both of those things."

Justice Williams said Mr Guerin had given Nicholls a glass of water at his house, which Nicholls thought tasted metallic.

"Then, in the paranoid state, you came to the conclusion that Thomas had tried to poison you. At that point an innocent visit to a mate and a mum unravelled into the events that followed."

Outside court, Mr Guerin said he was devastated the sentence handed down to Nicholls was not longer.

Defence lawyer, Shane Robinson.

Defence lawyer Shane Robinson during today's sentencing in Wellington. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

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Crown prosecutor Dale La Hood Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson