Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

Christchurch child-killer Jeremy McLaughlin jailed for life

Jeremy McLaughlin at the High Court in Christchurch. Photo / Pool
Jeremy McLaughlin at the High Court in Christchurch. Photo / Pool

Double child killer Jeremy McLaughlin has been jailed for life with a minimum non-parole period of 23 years for the killing of Christchurch schoolgirl Jade Bayliss.

The Crown argued that McLaughlin should be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for the 2011 murder, in what would have been a New Zealand first.

At the High Court in Christchurch, Crown prosecutor Brent Stanaway told Justice Graham Panckhurst that McLaughlin met the criteria for life in jail without parole. McLaughlin continues to deny the murder, even in a letter he wanted read out in court today which was blocked by the judge who said it would only "inflame the situation".

But Justice Panckhurst concluded that McLaughlin was "on the brink, but not quite crossing the line" of receiving a non-parole term.

Instead, he imposed a minimum non-parole period of 23 years for what he called a "brutal and senseless murder".

The Crown was not calling for the life sentence just because of the callousness of the crime, Mr Stanaway said. He argued that McLaughlin could qualify for such a harsh sentence given his prior history, his personal characteristics, the need for individual deterrents, and the need to protect the community.

The Sentencing and Parole Reform Act 2010 was introduced so that New Zealand's most serious murderers were no longer a risk to the community, he said.

Given that Mclaughlin has now killed two young people, protection to the community needs to be a "paramount consideration", Mr Stanaway said.

A psychologist raised concerns in a report about McLaughlin's lies and manipulation, the court was told.

Mr Stanaway said McLaughlin had shown a common theme of deflecting blame and culpability to others, which had become more pronounced as he had aged.

It was almost impossible to assess his chances of rehabilitation given his non-compliance so far, he said.

Defence counsel Margaret Sewell said deterrents and community protection could be served by a minimum non-parole period.

She accepted the psychiatric report placed McLaughlin at a medium to high risk of re-offending, but given that life imprisonment means life in prison, it was up to him to convince the authorities that he was suitable for release, she said.

Justice Panckhurst told McLaughlin that "without doubt your crime warrants life imprisonment".

He raised concerns over McLaughlin's continued "fatuous" denial. It was not credible that some other intruder entered the Bayliss home in Cashmere after his burglary, but before he returned to torch it, the judge said.

DNA found under Jade's fingernails matched McLaughlin's profile, Justice Panckhurst said.

"This is one of the most compelling cases I have experienced in my years in these courts".

He praised the police's "meticulous" approach to the case, as well as the Crown's "overwhelming" arguments.

"Your refusal to acknowledge the obvious is very disturbing," Justice Panckhurst said.

"As was the efficient and emotionless way you acted that morning, immediately after taking this young girl's life.

"It was chilling to see your demeanour later that day and indeed that evening when you were interviewed by the police."

As McLaughlin was led into the cells to begin his lengthy prison term, people in the public gallery shouted abuse at him, calling him "f****** gutless", a "piece of s***", and saying he should be hung.


Outside court, Tina Bayliss made a short statement: "Firstly I'd like to say how happy I am with Jeremy McLaughlin's sentence.

"I'd like to thank everyone involved in bringing justice to my daughter Jade Louise Bayliss. Jade will never be forgotten."

Meanwhile, McLaughlin's aunty Aurora Smith claimed that her nephew was innocent.

"This is a very sad day. An innocent man has been sentenced to a murder he did not commit."

Jade Bayliss
Jade Bayliss

In April, a jury of seven women and five men found McLaughlin guilty of murdering his ex-partner's daughter.

The 35-year-old had denied strangling Jade with a piece of cord, stuffing socks in her mouth, dousing her house in petrol and setting it ablaze on November 10, 2011.

Jury members weren't allowed to know McLaughlin's criminal history.

In Australia in 1995, he bashed 14-year-old Phillip Vidot with a cricket bat, and a mate ran over Vidot in a car.

The boy died, and Mclaughlin was sentenced to 12 years in jail for manslaughter. After four years he was deported to his native New Zealand in 2001.

News of McLaughlin's prior history sparked calls, endorsed by Justice Minister Judith Collins, for better sharing of criminal convictions between Australia and New Zealand.

McLaughlin's flatmate, Jolon Erin Sweeney, 42, was sentenced in June to 200 hours of community work for his role in helping McLaughlin try to get away with the burglary and arson.

After he was sentenced, Sweeney said he hoped McLaughlin never got out of jail.

"I've got a young boy ... and I don't want my son to be one of his next victims."

Jade's mum Tina Bayliss today read out her victim impact statement today, in which she paid tribute to her bright daughter, an exceptional pupil, and her "special friend".

"I think of her every day. She had everything to live for," she said.

Tina said she used to be happy-go-lucky, but now is "not really fussed about living life to the max any more".

She has suffered depression, anxiety, and undergone medication and counselling, she said.

"I'm terrified of this happening again; terrified of losing another child."

She recently returned from Perth where she had an "emotional" meeting with the family of Phillip Vidot and another victim Tyron Williams, who still suffers brain damage from the attack.

She said she wonders how someone could harm three children like McLaughlin did and "still have no remorse".

"Our lives will never be the same."

Jade's father Gary Bayliss said he's been unable to grieve for Jade, as the "heartache and anger" has been so deep.

"It ripped me up inside," he said. Mr Bayliss said he had lost friends who didn't know what to say to him anymore.

McLaughlin's lawyer Ms Sewell said he will appeal the decision.


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