Veteran journalist's killer gets life in jail

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Michael Umanui Werahiko at his sentencing.
Michael Umanui Werahiko at his sentencing.

The killer of veteran journalist Derek Round has been sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum period of 15 years without parole.

Michael Umanui Werahiko, 31, appeared in the High Court at Wanganui today for sentencing for the May 17, 2012 killing.

Murder victim Derek Round. File photo / Stuart Munro
Murder victim Derek Round. File photo / Stuart Munro

Mr Round, 77, was found dead in the living room of his Campbell St, Wanganui home after being beaten about the head, suffering multiple skull fractures.

Werahiko had earlier pleaded guilty to murder.

Mr Round, the former editor of the now defunct New Zealand Press Association, was a former foreign correspondent with strong ties to the Wairarapa.

Reading from the summary of facts, Justice Ronald Young said Werahiko had met Mr Round at a gym in Wanganui and struck up a friendship despite their age difference. Over six months in late 2011 the pair spent "some time together" as Werahiko said he would turn his life around.

However he committed further crimes and was sent to prison, being released in May 2012. Upon his release he spent time with Mr Round at the latter's home, drinking alcohol. Werahiko went to several bars and clubs where he was said to be disruptive and abusive. After his return Werahiko slept in Mr Round's home and, when he woke, punched Mr Round in the face.

He proceeded to "violently attack" Mr Round with his fists and kick and stomp on his head.

"Mr Round crawled around his home in an effort to get away from you, but you pursued him," Justice Young said.

After further attacks Werahiko took Mr Round's car and disposed of his clothes and the car's bloodied floor mat. The next day he returned to Mr Round's home and, seeing him in the same place he was when he left before, told a passersby of his death.

"You told police you had nothing to do with Mr Round's death - that was clearly a lie. He showed you kindness and decency which you repaid with gross violence which killed him," Justice Young said.

Werahiko was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 15 years.

In a statement, Mr Rounds family said: "No admission of guilt, or conviction, can make up for the void left by the murder of our father.

"The memory of the violence inflicted on him is more than we can bear.

"The only solace for us is that the police and their untiring work were able to give us and our father some justice.''

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