Napier man Chazz Hayden Hall was today sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum 15 and a half years for shooting the mother of his five-year-old daughter while the child slept in an adjoining room.
In the High Court in Napier today the circumstances of the murder on the night of Labour Day October 26, 2015, were revealed publicly for the first time, Justice Graham Lang saying 24-year-old mum and Plunket nurse Victoria (Tori) Foster was shot in her apartment off The Esplanade, Westshore, a lack of facial disfigurement indicating the barrel of Hall's shotgun had been in her mouth or very close to it when it was fired.
Justice Lang said it was fortunate their five-year-old daughter did not appear to have been awoken or seen any of the incident or its aftermath, and was still asleep in her room when police arrived.
Hall, 28 at the time, had fled and was apprehended later in the night when shot by a police officer on the main road through Napier-Hastings twin-cities midway point Clive after an hour-long chase in which he threatened to kill himself and any police who tried to stop him, and fired at least three shots into the air.
In hospital for some time and having received a permanent partially-disabling injury, and having admitted to police in an interview 18 days after the shooting admitted he was responsible for the death, Hall initially pleaded not guilty, but reversed his stance after an overseas pathologist sought by defence counsel Russell Fairbrother QC supported police evidence of how close the gun was to Miss Foster when fired.
In a sudden appearance in court on January 13, he admitted the charge, and averted a trial which had been scheduled to start in the High Court earlier this week.
Today, head shaven and seeming unemotional as he watched the Judge during a sitting which lasted just over an hour, the sentence of 15 and a half years was imposed despite Crown prosecutor Clayton Walker's plea for a minimum of at least 17 years.
Among factors which Justice Lang considered after establishing a pre-calculations starting point of 13 years, was that Hall appeared to have learnt nothing from a five-and-a-half year sentence imposed when he was 18 after a gunpoint kidnapping of a man who was then dumped in a forest by an accomplice, left to fend for himself bound and only partially clothed.
Along with the sentence for murder today, Hall was sentenced to concurrent sentences of 18 months for threatening to kill police, and for recklessly discharging a firearm, three months for unlawful possession of the weapon, and two months for dangerous driving.
Little was said during the hearing of Hall's past other than the details of the 2004 incidents.
However, in a victim impact statement Miss Foster's sister Sarah said Hall was like a brother to her.
She said the killing left all the family's lives shattered, disbelieving of how a father could have shot his daughter's mother and left the child alone in the house with the possibility of discovering the horror.
She now struggled to trust others, the court heard.
The court heard Hall and Miss Foster had been in a relationship about six years and lived in the Westshore apartment with their daughter until about two years before the killing.
Hall acquired the shotgun in 2011 and it was stored in the apartment until Hall removed it a few weeks before the shooting, Justice Land noting today that because of the earlier offending he could never have acquired or carried the firearm, because he would never have been able to obtain a firearms licence.
Living with family members after leaving the apartment, Hall maintained contact with Miss Foster, but on the night had been told repeatedly on the phone to him that she wanted the relationship to end and did not want to see Hall again.
Drinking with friends and intoxicated, Hall went to where he had been staying, took the gun and shells and headed to Westshore, where he entered the apartment through an open door, and found Miss Foster sitting in a lounge chair, where he claimed he had brought the gun to place it back in a cabinet at the address.
Justice Lang described that as an "intro" to get into the apartment.
Hall's lawyer Mr Fairbrother said Hall also had a bottle of wine "in the hope events would turn out differently."
Hall arrived just before 8.40pm, at which time Miss Foster was talking to her mother on the phone. Having hung up, she repeated her wishes that the relationship was over and told Hall to leave.
The shooting was thought to have happened about 10 minutes after Hall arrived, and after fleeing Hall went to the home of a cousin and told her briefly what had happened, and contacted his father, indicating he intended to kill himself.
They contacted the police and the chase began Hall was seen driving in Hastings and refused to stop, even after tyres on one side of the vehicle were punctured by road spikes.
Sarah Foster had gone to see her sister the night of the shooting.
In the victim impact statement read by a victim's advisor, Sarah Foster said she was concerned for her. She knew something was wrong when she was stopped at a police cordon.
She said she'd known Hall since she was about 10, he'd "been like a brother" and she'd looked up to him.
She said that every day she struggled with seeing her mother's distress, and feeling that Tori would have still been around had she reacted earlier to her mother's concerns and gone to check on her and her niece earlier.
In his statement, Miss Foster's uncle Doug Burne asked what sort of man it was that could shoot a mother while her child was asleep in the room next door and said to Hall: "I think you are a bloody mongrel."
His statement said no one had the right to take the life of a mother, and he added: "Chazz. You are a terrible father, and don't deserve the right to be called one."
Cousin Rebecca Burne described her "very close" friend as the most amazing person," and she did not think Hall was in any way remorseful for taking her life.
The family of Miss Foster, who had indicated through Detective Sergeant Jason Crowe before the sentencing that they wished to speak with media afterwards, later declined, Mr Crowe saying they preferred to retain their privacy at the time. He said they thanked police, victim advisors and others for the work.
Mr Crowe described the outcome as a "great result" for the family, three of whom had victim impact statements read to the court on their behalf.
For more articles from this region, go to Hawkes Bay Today