Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

Anger erupts in court over killer's sentence

Photo / File
Photo / File

Angry scenes erupted in court today after a murderer who slashed a young mother's throat was told he could be out of jail in just 10 years.

Mental health outpatient Paul Gottermeyer had already been sentenced to life imprisonment for what a judge described as a "horrible attack of the utmost gravity".

On July 11 last year he knifed the woman to death in her Christchurch home before her 3-year-old daughter found her lying in a pool of blood.

"Mummy did bleed everywhere .... and mummy scream," she told police.

The girl now suffers night terrors as she relives the ordeal.

It wasn't until today at the High Court in Christchurch that the 30-year old market gardener from Kaiapoi was told that his minimum non-parole period will be 10 years.

In reaching his decision, Justice John Fogarty said: "I know it's not going to be popular with the family."

The public gallery, with about 30 family members and friends of the murdered 24-year-old, were disgusted by the decision.

"It's an injustice," shouted one woman.

"If that was your daughter..." said another.

The disbelief soon turned to anger directed at Gottermeyer standing in the dock.

"You're a murderer!" shouted one woman.

"You dirty, filthy rotten bastard, I hope you die," screamed another.

Security cleared the court while further outbursts were directed at defence counsel Tony Greig.

Women wailed and the family hugged outside court.

Justice Fogarty reached his conclusion based on the expert opinion of three consultant forensic psychiatrists.

Gottermeyer was an outpatient at Hillmorton psychiatric hospital and all of the experts concluded that he had been suffering from severe depression.

But they said it was difficult to say how severe his depression was at the time of the killing, or how much blame for what happened could be apportioned to his depression.

Canterbury DHB consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Helen Austin said it was impossible to say whether Gottermeyer would have killed if he wasn't depressed.

"Depression is one of many factors that played a part. Human behaviour is very complex and driven by many different factors," she said.

"Depression is an incredibly common mental illness ... and on the other hand, homicide is a very rare event."

Dr David Chaplow agreed.

However, defence witness Philip Brinded, associate professor of psychiatry, concluded "but for the depression the homicide may not have occurred".

"I believe the symptoms of depression and the way depression changes a person's thinking was an important contributing factor to this particularly tragic event."

The Crown suggested a starting point for a minimum non-parole period was 17 years.

But Justice Fogarty said that sentence "simply cannot be imposed justly" in this case.

Given that Gottermeyer had a previously unblemished record, he believed it was unlikely that he would offend again if his depression was addressed.

"This is conduct out of character. I'm assuming you will recover from your depression over the minimum term of imprisonment," the judge said.

Gottermeyer left home at 7am on July 11 last year with a large kitchen knife and drove to the woman's house.

He was let inside where he knocked her to the ground, and stabbed her 12 times in the head, hands, chest, and back, before slashing her throat.

When he was arrested, he said the girl had not seen the attack. He said he closed the kitchen door and left water, biscuits, and a mandarin for the girl before driving home.

The woman's body was found when her partner came home later that morning to check why she had not arrived at work. He found the daughter crying and upset.

Gottermeyer's victim and her daughter have been granted permanent name suppression.


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