A Hastings man who admitted murdering a woman who he ran down in his car 20 years ago continues to deny he deliberately struck the woman, according to his latest Parole Board report.
The Parole Board has again declined release for Dartelle Maremare James Alder, who was just 23 when he was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Wellington jogger Margaret Lynne Baxter on the sunny Sunday of January 21, 2001.
He was sentenced to a minimum term of 15 years in jail, which was increased to 17 years on appeal by the Crown, meaning parole had not been able to be considered until 2018.
In a surprise twist, he had pleaded guilty to one charge of murder, three of sexual violation with intent to commit sexual violation, but denied intentionally using his car as a weapon in the moment on Stock Rd, near Flaxmere, that precipitated the events.
He was found guilty after a five-day trial.
Baxter was out running alone while holidaying in Hawke's Bay during the Wellington Anniversary Day weekend, when she was run over, sexually violated and killed by a young man who had no criminal history and was apparently committed to family and well thought of.
His defence was that distracted while driving on the narrow road he had not seen the jogger in the glaring sunlight and discovered her only when backtracking to work out how something had hit and smashed his windscreen.
The defence explored the issue of blind panic, with Alder fearing he might go to jail and be left unable to be there for his younger sister with whom he and their mother lived in Flaxmere, putting the injured woman into his car, wondering what to do next, and eventually driving up a driveway hoping to get help but there was nobody home.
It was then the offences happened, sexual violation, stabbing and killing the victim by smashing a terracotta tile into her head.
Police went to his address that night, and the body was discovered in the boot of his car.
The latest report, from a parole hearing on February 26, says the board asked, as the victim's family had, whether Alder now accepted he had deliberately "driven down" Baxter.
"Mr Alder recognised it would be easier for him to simply [say] that he had deliberately ran her down, but he said that was not true.
"We leave that matter for the victims," the report says. "He acknowledged to us how much he appreciated the victim's approach. He recognised it cast an important obligation on him to never return to prison and to live a good life.
"We were impressed with his understanding of the precipitants of his offending," the board said.
While considering Alder is assessed a minimum security risk and as a moderate to low risk of reoffending either sexually or otherwise violently, the board has not agreed to his release, and will see Alder again in December, at which point he will have been in custody for almost 21 years since his arrest.
He had done "very well" with rehabilitation, and had completed all objectives with a good knowledge of his safety plan and how to deal with risk situations, the board said.
The case became an early campaign focus of the Sensible Sentencing Trust which was formed in Hawke's Bay later in the year of the killing.