A "dangerous and evil" killer who taunted his victim's family during his trial has been jailed for a minimum of 21 years, the toughest sentence handed down in a Northland court.
Wayne Bracken, 35, appeared in the High Court at Whangarei yesterday for sentencing on charges of the murder and kidnapping of Auckland man Jack Davis on February 25, 2011, and charges of aggravated robbery, assault with intent to injure, and burglary of a Northland couple.
Bracken was found guilty of murdering and kidnapping Mr Davis, after a seven-week jury trial in Whangarei this year. His co-accused in the death of Mr Davis, Neville Dangen, 24, from Kaeo, was found not guilty of the charges. Mr Dangen was not involved in the aggravated robbery. The jury took just six hours to reach its guilty verdict.
During sentencing yesterday, Justice Edwin Wylie said Bracken had taunted Mr Davis' family by singing and whistling (Candle in the Wind) when he entered or left the court, and continued even after being asked to stop.
"You were confrontational with witnesses and thought you were above the law," the judge said.
"This will bring it home to you that you are not."
Mr Davis' mother, Zelma Davis, read an emotional victim-impact statement to the court on the hurt and damage Bracken had done to her family, while Mr Davis' 14-year-old son also read his victim-impact statement. He lamented that the man he had been told to call "uncle" out of respect for Bracken had shown his father no respect when he brutally murdered him.
The jury had heard that Bracken had Davis hogtied, left him tied up in a woolshed for about 20 hours, then beat him to death with a thistle grubber, before leaving his body down a ravine off isolated Salvation Rd, near Kaeo.
Justice Edwin Wylie said Bracken was a "very dangerous and evil" man who was a clear danger to the public, which needed to be protected from him.
"It was calculated and vicious. It was, in effect, an execution," Justice Wylie said. "You totally ignored his torment."
The judge said the probation report on Bracken found he was trying to divert blame on others, had no remorse and was not willing to address his behaviour. Bracken was also at high risk of re-offending.
Justice Wylie said he had the benefit of seeing Bracken during the trial and had found him to be belligerent and aggressive.
He said a starting point for Bracken's "cold-blooded" killing was 20 years and he added a year for aggravating features, including Bracken's continued denial of any wrongdoing, complete lack of remorse, 18 previous convictions, including several for violence, and the brutality of the murder.
Bracken was also sentenced to a concurrent eight-year jail term for the kidnapping, eight years for the aggravated robbery, 18 months for assault with intent and 12 months for burglary.
Bracken got life imprisonment with a minimum 21-year non-parole period. Justice Wylie ended with a warning for Bracken that the sentence did not mean he would be automatically released after 21 years inside.
"You will have to apply for release. It will be up to the Parole Board to determine if you are then ready to be released. The board will be aware of the horrific nature of these crimes, and will be aware of my view that you are a very dangerous man and present a real risk to the community," he said.
"The board will have to be satisfied to a very high degree that you are no longer a risk to society, and only then will they consider release."
Bracken remained emotionless during the sentencing, staring straight ahead throughout.