A man who raped and murdered his girlfriend before setting her body on fire has been compared to another high-profile murderer who killed his former girlfriend.
Steven Paul Ellis, 30, was sentenced today to life in prison with a minimum non-parole period of 19 years at the High Court at Auckland. He was earlier found guilty of raping and killing his ex-girlfriend before setting fire to her home.
In sentencing, Justice Patricia Courtney compared the crime to that of Clayton Weatherston, who stabbed his ex-girlfriend Sophie Elliott 216 times in January 2008.
She said Ellis' case was a "truly appalling crime'' because he raped Jacqueline Blackbourn and set her house on fire to hide the evidence.
"Looking at it ... Weatherston is a fair comparison.''
Justice Courtney said Ellis had been in a relationship with Ms Blackbourn but she broke the relationship off after a physical fight early last year.
Ellis' trial was told Ellis did not take the break-up well and became obsessed with Ms Blackbourn. He had a photograph of the blonde British woman on his mobile phone that he would kiss every night and morning.
The pair continued seeing each other on and off but Ms Blackbourn did not let Ellis come to her house and took out a trespass order against him.
An attempted suicide by Ellis to win Ms Blackbourn's attention failed.
"She was a fragile character. The last thing she needed in her life was a man like you,'' Justice Courtney said.
She said Ellis took a knife from his kitchen and drove to Ms Blackbourn's house.
"You had gotten Ms Blackbourn into her bedroom where you strangled her, raped her and stabbed her twice.''
Ellis then set fire to the house, later telling a fireman that the blaze was started by candles. He also asked neighbours "Where's my Jacqui''.
But Justice Courtney said the fire was an attempt to hide evidence. She said Ellis forgot his car keys and returned to the bedroom to get them, severely burning his arms and hands in the process.
At his trial, Ellis said he and Ms Blackbourn had consensual sex before she returned to the bedroom with a knife and stabbed herself as the pair wrestled. He said he then set fire to the house to kill himself.
The jury found his story of a second suicide attempt by fire "utterly implausible''.
"Your evidence shows a shocking arrogance and complete refusal to take responsibility for your actions,'' Justice Courtney said.
Crown prosecutor Steve Haszard said the case shared similarities with that of Weatherston.
Both killers drove to their victim's homes and parked around the corner, both brought knives from home and both murdered their ex-girlfriends.
He said while Weatherston displayed a "level of brutality that was immensely greater'', Ellis had violently raped and murdered Ms Blackbourn in her own home.
"There was a combination and a powerful combination of the rape and the subsequent burning of Ms Blackbourn that lifts this into the exceptional category.''
Ellis' lawyer John Anderson argued against a minimum non-parole period over the statutory 10 years and asked that his client's depression be taken into account.
Justice Courtney sentenced Ellis to life in prison with a minimum non-parole period of 19 years. She also sentenced him to eight years in prison for rape and 4-1/2 for arson. The rape and murder sentences are to be served concurrently.
Ellis was also ordered to pay $73,529.57 in reparations to an insurance company for the fire damage.
"Your's was a truly appalling crime, committed against an unusually vulnerable woman.''
Carolann Dempster, 20, lived with Ms Blackbourn and Ellis in 2009 said her "aunty Jackie'' was always there for her.
"She always put a smile on everyone's face,'' she said outside court.
She said Ellis showed no remorse and she was happy with the length of his sentence.
- APNZBy Edward Gay @edwardgay Email Edward