Life for killing father

By Corey Charlton

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After he had stabbed his father twice, inflicting injuries which later proved to be fatal, Johnathon Walter Middleton told police "he's my dad, I love him".

The High Court at Napier heard yesterday how, 13 months later, he was still no closer to explaining why he killed his father.

Middleton, 32, was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 11 years for the murder of his stepfather in Havelock North on November 9, last year.

Hawke's Bay Today can reveal for the first time that Middleton stabbed his father to death less than a week after escaping a charge of threatening to kill his partner.

He appeared in Hastings District Court on November 3, where the charge of threatening to kill, arising from a domestic incident in Hastings on August 25, was dismissed by Judge Bridget Mackintosh following a defended hearing.

Just six days later, he killed his father at home with a steak knife.

At yesterday's hearing the court heard he had a close relationship to his father, Walter William Middleton, who had raised him as his own son.

Walter Middleton had done nothing to provoke the attack or make himself the target of Middleton's rage.

Drinking at a Danvers St home in which they both lived, Middleton became agitated and destroyed some property.

His father returned home later that evening, walking in on what Middleton's lawyer Amit Malik described as a "storm of fury".

Walter Middleton, 61, , was stabbed twice with a steak knife.

One cut in his neck hit his carotid artery, resulting in a loss of blood.

The other stab wound was to his shoulder.

Neighbours came across the gruesome scene shortly before police arrived and a calm Middleton asked to be arrested.

"Arrest me, I just killed my father," he told the officers.

Mr Malik told the court Middleton was remorseful and regretted his actions.

"In the hours following Mr Middleton stabbing his father, in waiting really, for the news whether Walter would survive the wounds in the neck, Mr Middleton was asked by police on a number of occasions to explain what had happened.

"That night, Mr Middleton couldn't come up with any reason whatsoever ... simply to say ... 'He's my dad, I love him'.

"Even now, sir, 13 months later, he's no closer to providing an explanation for his actions ... That seems to be the question that's left for the family.

"The question of why, and in my submission, it's not a question that will ever be answered."

A victim impact statement read on behalf of a relative described the pain the family were suffering.

They were at Walter Middleton's side at the hospital that night, before leaving and being called back several hours later with the news he would not survive the injuries.

The father and grandfather was described as witty, fun loving and kind-hearted.

Middleton had left school at the age of 14, and was an intravenous drug user until the age of 25.

He had also abused alcohol.

Relationship problems also contributed to him feeling like a failure, and the court heard how he became angry and frustrated at himself and his life, and took it out on his father.

Middleton had to accept it was his actions alone that caused the death of his father and, if any lessons could be learned, they were to ask for help in coping with day to day life, Mr Malik said.

"Mr Middleton will carry with him for the rest of his life the guilt of taking the life of someone he loved, someone he loved very much and someone who was loved dearly by others."

The lawyer asked for a minimum non-parole period of 10 years, while Crown prosecutor Nicola Graham asked for it to be set between 11 and 12 years.

Justice David Collins acknowledged the 32-year-old's remorse and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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