Warning: This story discusses graphic details of domestic violence
Samuel Pou has been found guilty of murdering Northland's Bridget Odelle Simmonds - the woman he subjected to a 90 minute beating during which more than 100 hard punches were inflicted.
The assault came after Simmonds spilled wine in a hut where the couple were living.
The verdict came from a jury at the High Court in Whangārei at 1pm today and came after fewer than six hours of deliberation. He will be sentenced on September 2.
Simmonds' uncle John Callen paid tribute to his niece as a "lovely artist, a very devoted mother, loved daughter" who was an "adventurer".
"Some of the adventures she went on led her down one or two difficult paths, last of which she obviously couldn't find her way back from."
Callen, an actor who played the dwarf Óin in the Hobbit trilogy, said Simmonds was "tremendous fun". "We all have very happy memories of her when she was little and some of her artworks sadly have been destroyed but not forgotten, like her."
He said the family believed the jury to have given the correct verdicts although "there's no winners in this today".
"The incidents that have happened in the last two years would be the single worst event in our family's history, and we've got a very big family."
Callen paid tribute to the police and lawyers involved, saying Simmonds' mother Carol Callen wanted her thanks to be passed on.
"It could not have been easy for the jury at all. It's an extraordinary thing to sit through. Some of the details were incredibly uncomfortable."
Simmonds death came some time between February 23, 2019 and March 16, 2019 and followed a weekend with her mother in Kerikeri where she sought respite after two earlier serious assaults by Pou.
There were through-and-through lacerations to her right ear which had to be surgically glued and stitched after an assault in January 2019. The following month, Pou attempted to gouge her eyes out in another attack in Whangārei.
The couple were living in the Otaika Motel and Holiday Park at the time and following the second assault in February 2019, police spoke to her and made arrangements for her to get in touch with the Whangārei Women's Refuge.
A registered community nurse who saw Simmonds was concerned the latter wanted to move from the holiday park to a 20ha block of land on Wilson Rd in Parakao, 40km west of Whangārei, where her Pou lived.
The nurse's concerns stemmed from Simmonds' injuries and the fact she had earlier received treatment at Whangārei Hospital's emergency department.
It was following that treatment Simmonds sought refuge with her mum who later dropped her back in Whangārei at Countdown in Regent while on her way to Auckland on February 23, 2019.
That was the last Callen saw her. From that supermarket, why Simmonds took a taxi to her partner's makeshift tent on Wilson Rd that same day remains a mystery.
Her leg was bruised black along its length and she had three fractured ribs when she went back to Samuel Pou.
Simmonds was reported missing on March 6, 2019 after all communication with her family stopped.
What followed was hundreds of hours of police investigation that consisted of a specialist search team from Auckland, the Wellington-based dive squad, Environmental Science and Research staff, a cadaver dog and handler plus Northland police detectives and the Northland Search and Rescue team.
The breakthrough was made when Pou came to the Whangarei police station on June 13, 2020 and confessed to beating Simmonds and later burying her body in a shallow creek about 100m away from the tent.
Police also received information about her taxi ride from Countdown and other leads from the public that led detectives to converge on to the Wilson Rd property and excavate her partly-decomposed body.
Crown prosecutor Mike Smith told the jury in his closing address on Wednesday
it was a mystery why Simmonds went back to Pou but what was known was she never left that property alive.
"We may never understand why she went back to him. Her skeleton revealed further beating, this time more fierce, longer designed to disable her. There were fractured to her leg and feet so that there was no way she would run away, leave by herself.
"Her body had decayed so much that we can't say which blow killed her but that doesn't mean it didn't happen. It's fanciful to suggest some unrelated factors caused her death.
It's the beating by Samuel Pou that killed her.
"He's beaten her over a significant period of time and she dies as a result. That was the substantive and operative cause of her death. That's why Samuel Pou seeks no help, he buries her in an unmarked area away from public gaze and then cleans up.
"Those steps are designed for many months to delay the recovery of her body. He knows the true scale of that attack," Smith told the jury.
Pou's nephew Te Koha Samuel Pou, 32, was found guilty of dishonestly using her bank card three days after she was reported missing by her family. He was also found guilty of helping Pou avoid arrest.
Where to get help:
• 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP) (available 24/7)
• YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
• KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757 or TEXT 4202
• NATIONAL ANXIETY 24 HR HELPLINE: 0800 269 4389If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.