Wallace had previous rape and assault conviction

Michael Scott Wallace, the man found guilty of murdering Birgit Brauer, already has convictions to his name.

Crown prosecutor Tim Brewer told the media outside court this afternoon that preventive detention may be sought for Wallace, as he has already has a rape and assault conviction.

A jury of eight women and four men returned its guilty verdict this afternoon after deliberating for about 4-1/2 hours, following a trial which lasted almost three weeks.

Wallace had denied the killing of Ms Brauer at Lucys Gully, near New Plymouth, in September 2005.

Crown prosecutor Tim Brewer had alleged at the High Court at New Plymouth that Wallace likely took a sexual interest in the 28-year-old while driving her to New Plymouth.

He took her to Lucys Gully intent on rape, Mr Brewer said in his closing address yesterday.

Wallace took an iron bar from his Toyota Surf and hit Miss Brauer in the head, he claimed. He then dragged her into the bushes and began removing her clothing, before being disturbed by an approaching vehicle.

He was arrested after 18 days on the run and when he was caught Wallace allegedly told officers: "They should have just shot me tonight, I couldn't run any more."

However, his lawyer Susan Hughes, QC, told the trial jury that the Crown case was distinctive for its "almost total absence of evidence against Michael Wallace".

What evidence there was was "almost entirely circumstantial", and she warned the jury against being seduced by such evidence because it allowed the mind to fill in any gaps.

Police operation head Detective Senior Sergeant Grant Coward left the courtroom as soon as the verdict was known to phone Ms Brauer's parents Knut and Annemarie in Germany.

After speaking to them, Mr Coward said they were "extremely emotional but felt that some burden had been lifted from them".

Prosecutor Tim Brewer said outside the court that the Crown may ask for preventive detention when Wallace is sentenced on September 27, as he had raped a young woman before.

Mr Brewer said while it was the right verdict, it could not bring Ms Brauer back and as well as being the end of a legal process it was the end of a life.

Also outside court, Susan Hughes QC said Wallace was shattered by the verdict.

It was premature to comment on the likelihood of Wallace being sentenced to preventive detention.

- NZHERALD STAFF, NZPA

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