Teenager jailed for life over 'dreadful' murder loses appeal

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The Court of Appeal had granted a retrial for Lori-lea Te Wini after she was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the murder of retired Opotiki school teacher John Rowe in 2008. File photo / Stephen Parker
The Court of Appeal had granted a retrial for Lori-lea Te Wini after she was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the murder of retired Opotiki school teacher John Rowe in 2008. File photo / Stephen Parker

A teenage girl sentenced to life imprisonment for the ``dreadful'' murder of retired Opotiki school teacher John Rowe has had her appeal dismissed.

Lori Leah Te Wini was last year sentenced to life in prison for the 2008 murder of the 78-year-old, with a minimum non-parole period of 10 years' imprisonment.

Last month Te Wini's lawyers appealed the life sentence in the Court of Appeal on the basis it was "manifestly unjust'' and asked for it to be replaced by a finite sentence of eight to 10 years.

They submitted Te Wini had lacked murderous intent, referring to a psychiatric report which suggested she acted impulsively under pressure from her cousin and co-offender Courtney Churchward. They said her relationship with her then 17-year-old cousin meant she was likely to have joined in the attack to please Churchward, who played the principal role.

The lawyers pointed to Te Wini's extreme youth, just 14 at the time of the murder, and the fact she was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of serious childhood abuse. They claimed she was suffering from ``victimhood'' as a result of that abuse.

However in his decision released today, Justice John Wild dismissed the appeal.

"Along with Ms Churchward, Ms Te Wini was involved in brutally murdering a defenceless old man in his bed in his own home at night. As counsel for Ms Te Wini rightly acknowledged, it was a 'dreadful' crime,'' he said.

In November 2008 Te Wini and Churchward climbed through Mr Row's window, went to his room and assaulted him using pieces of wood. They searched his home, found his wallet and ransacked the house to make it look like a burglary gone wrong.

Mr Rowe was found with a number of fractures to his skull, a broken cheek and nose as well as other injuries. The head injuries were the most probable cause of death.

Both girls were convicted of murder after a trial in November 2009 and sentenced to life imprisonment for a minimum period of 17 years.

However, Te Wini successfully appealed her conviction and a retrial was ordered. Four days before the retrial she pleaded guilty to an amended indictment of murder and in July 2012 was resentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 10 years.

In a separate 2011 appeal, Churchward's minimum non-parole period was reduced from 17 to 13 years.

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