A 14-year-old who beat an elderly man to death for the keys to his car has been sentenced to life in prison while his two accomplices were jailed for at least two years.

Connor Rewha-Te Wara, who pleaded guilty to murdering Donald Alfred Stewart in Hamilton on June 27 last year, was today handed a minimum non-parole period of 11 years by Justice Patrick Keane in the High Court at Hamilton.

His two friends Ben Purua, then 15 and William Frederick Izett, the oldest of the three at 17 at the time of the murder, both pleaded guilty to manslaughter and were jailed for 5 1/2 years and four years respectively.

The pair would serve minimum periods of half that time; two years and nine months for Purua and two years for Izett.

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On the night of his death Mr Stewart had stopped to use a public toilet in the centre of Hamilton when the three teens, drunk and high on either cannabis or methamphetamine, decided to steal his car.

When the 74-year-old refused to hand over the keys Rewha-Te Wara punched him in the head and knocked him to the ground. He was then dragged to an alleyway and repeately punched and kicked while the other two looked on.

Mr Stewart was killed by a blow to the head which was so strong it ruptured an artery and he was left for dead as the thugs took his car for a joyride.

The retired draughtsman's body was found by a street sweeper in London St the next morning.