"Nothing is ever going to bring my sister back," said Vicki Harlick, "but it can bring hope to other women."

The family of Marie Harlick were last night celebrating the murder conviction for the man who punched, kicked and stomped her to death in a 20-minute beating.

The jury took just four-and-a-half hours to find Robert Roupere Hohua guilty of murder, not manslaughter as he claimed.

The 36-year-old admitted killing Harlick, his partner of two years, at her Opotiki home in November last year.

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The evidence in the trial in the High Court at Tauranga was largely uncontested, the key issue was whether Hohua had murderous intent during the fatal assault.

Family of Harlick, some of whom had flown from Australia, shouted "yes" on hearing the verdict, then "thank you" when the jury was discharged.

Marie Harlick who was killed last year by her partner, Robert Roupere Hohua. Photo / Supplied
Marie Harlick who was killed last year by her partner, Robert Roupere Hohua. Photo / Supplied

Outside court, Harlick's family were tearful and relieved at the verdict after listening to a week of harrowing evidence.

Her auntie, also called Marie Harlick, is now raising her niece's daughter Vivienne. She was just 19 months old when she witnessed her mother's death.

Police found the toddler lying beside her mother's body, hidden by a blanket.

"Justice is served," Marie Harlick told the Herald.

Vivienne with aunty Vicki Harlick, left, and great aunty Marie Harlick, right, outside the High Court at Tauranga after the man who killed her mother was found guilty of murder. Photo / Alan Gibson
Vivienne with aunty Vicki Harlick, left, and great aunty Marie Harlick, right, outside the High Court at Tauranga after the man who killed her mother was found guilty of murder. Photo / Alan Gibson

"It's just been horrible for everyone. We're so thankful to everyone, the police, the lawyers, for all their hard work.

"Now we can concentrate on looking after her daughter, this beautiful little girl [Vivienne]."

Hohua was remanded in custody and will be sentenced in December.

The couple had had been in a "tumultuous" relationship for about two years and raised a toddler, Vivienne, together.

But the couple were not living together.

This was because Hohua was on bail for an earlier violent attack on Harlick in October.

As part of his bail conditions on the charge of assault with intent to injure, Hohua was not allowed to go within 100m of Harlick.

A bail curfew meant Hohua had to be at another Opotiki address between the hours of 7pm and 6am.

Despite these strict conditions, the couple had been drinking together with friends in the hours leading up to Harlick's death.

Robert Roupere Hohua admitted he beat Marie Harlick to death, but said he never meant to kill her. Photo / Alan Gibson
Robert Roupere Hohua admitted he beat Marie Harlick to death, but said he never meant to kill her. Photo / Alan Gibson

This was at a house on Wellington St where Harlick was serving a sentence of home detention.

Just before his 7pm curfew, Hohua returned to his bail address on Windsor St with Vivienne, and others he was drinking with.

But about 9.30pm, Hohua became worried Harlick was being unfaithful to him and returned to Harlick's home on Wellington St, pushing the toddler in the stroller.

When Harlick didn't answer the door, Hohua became angry and smashed a window to let himself in.

Harlick walked in the back door, but was too drunk to answer Hohua's questions.

This "enraged" Hohua who punched Harlick in the face, once or twice.

She was knocked to the ground and "probably unconscious at this point", said the Crown.

Neighbours called 111 at 9.58pm and heard Hohua shout "get up before I kill you".

He kept punching, kicking and stomping Harlick in an assault that dragged on for about 20 minutes.

Hohua then dragged her into the bath, where he cleaned the blood off her face. Her body was left under the running tap while Hohua went to check on Vivienne, who was crying in
the stroller.

He then moved Harlick onto a mattress in a bedroom and covered her with a blanket.

Vivienne was later found by police under the blanket, beside her dead mother.

Two police officers, who were tied up another incident when the 111 call was made, arrived at the Wellington St house at 10.24pm.

Hohua fled and was Tasered during the arrest. The police found Marie Harlick inside the bedroom, unresponsive.

A post-mortem examination revealed a long list of injuries inflicted during the "eruption of rage", which is how the Crown described the beating, including bruises, cuts and fractures to both sides of her jaw.

She bled to death, internally, after a stomp or kick to her stomach ruptured an artery.

Even if Hohua did not intend to kill Harlick, the Crown said murderous intent could be established if the Crown proved Hohua knew the beating could kill her, but went ahead anyway.

"[Hohua] consciously took a risk to dice with Ms Harlick's life," said prosecutor Richard Jenson.

Hohua did not intend to kill Harlick, said defence lawyer Gene Tomlinson, or did not know the beating was likely to be fatal.

"He has committed an unrightable wrong, something that cannot ever be fixed," Tomlinson said.

"He's taken a life he should have protected. But he's guilty of manslaughter."