Tuesday marks 10 years since Jason Somerville admitted killing his wife Rebecca Chamberlain and the couple's neighbour Tisha Lowry, burying their bodies beneath the floorboards of his house. The Christchurch home was the target of
several arson attacks before it was destroyed, bought by the council and replaced with a park.
Fellow prisoner Arthur Taylor, for whom Somerville worked as an assistant behind bars, has now shared what he told him of the murders. Kurt Bayer revists Christchurch's "House of Horrors" killings which shocked a nation.
An auburn-haired woman hustles through freshly-mown Ripene Ma Reserve, black handbag flapping at her side. Past the moss-mottled park bench, inscribed with, "As the butterfly unfolds, let new life begin", she makes the number 80 metro bus just in time.
A decade earlier, from the same sandy land, oddball loner Jason Paul Somerville used to watch Tisha Cecilia Lowry, who lived two doors down, make the same dash for the bus.
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He eventually strangled 28-year-old Lowry on September 25, 2008, and buried her in a hand-dug 120cm-deep grave beneath the floorboards of the two-storey, semi-detached former state house in Christchurch.
Eleven months later, the church-going student builder struck again, snapping when his wife Rebecca Sarah Chamberlain, 35, rebuffed his sexual advances. On August 30, 2009, he throttled her to death and buried her alongside Lowry's decomposing body. He reported her missing.
Four days later - exactly 10 years ago on Tuesday - when Somerville went to New Brighton police station to hand in his wife's prescription glasses and wedding ring, he confessed everything. And more.
The oddball loner
Somerville was always an odd fish. Bullied at school in Taupo, he would sometimes flip and go for the throat of his tormentors.
As a 14-year-old boy, he started stealing women's underwear from clotheslines. He crept around at night, peeping in windows. In his caravan, he masturbated as he used binoculars to watch a woman across the road get undressed.
A local cop gave him a warning.
Somerville committed burglaries but got away.
He took Tegretol, an anticonvulsant medication for epilepsy, which he says also helped control his "mood swings".
A decade later, police again warned the scruffy outsider, this time about stalking women around Huka Falls.
But again, there wasn't enough to charge him on.
Somerville met Chamberlain at Taupo Baptist Church, and the couple married in 2003. She had a child from a previous relationship and the pair later had two children together. All three were in Child Youth and Family care [now called Oranga Tamariki - Ministry for Children] at the time of the 2008 and 2009 slayings.
But Somerville had evil thoughts about getting them back. He'd considered abducting their social worker and "scaring her to give us our kids back", ominously later telling police he knew her daily movements.
Christchurch neighbours said prostitutes used to visit his family home in the suburb of Wainoni. They thought he was a "f*****g weirdo".
Somerville was also quizzed by detectives over the death of sex worker Mellory Manning, who was strangled, stabbed and beaten before being thrown into the city's Avon River about three months after Lowry disappeared. But he denied having committed any other crimes. The biggest suspect in Manning's murder is a person identified only as Male B, and has never been found.
Even in prison, serving at least 23 years for the double slaying, Somerville was different. Locked away at New Zealand's only specialist maximum-security prison unit, Auckland Prison, known as Paremoremo, he was a target.
Long-time prisoner Arthur Taylor saw the bullying happening and didn't like it. While he abhorred what Somerville had done – like the rest of the country, he couldn't get his head around it – he felt sorry for a guy "booted in the guts most of his life".
So he took him under his wing. And made him his "office boy".
"A strange old creature, Jason," Taylor told the Herald on Sunday.
As Somerville, now aged 43, organised Taylor's documents and legal files, the older jailbird wanted to know: "Why'd you do it, Jase?"
"He just thinks that he snapped, basically," Taylor revealed.
Somerville had no criminal record and was not known to Christchurch police. He had only a minor driving matter noted. He'd largely flown under the radar.
"He certainly didn't boast about his crimes and he definitely regretted what the hell he'd done. It's a bloody sorry old business. There's no winners there whatsoever. Very bloody sad."
Taylor - the "jailhouse lawyer" released this year after 40 years behind bars for about 150 convictions - trusted him. He recalls a "quiet, reserved sort of fella".
"Compared with your average maximum-security prisoner, he was actually honest. Maybe too honest."
Somerville was certainly candid during his police interviews.
A transcript of the three video interviews, obtained by the Herald on Sunday, has Somerville explaining in graphic detail his grisly crimes.
No lurid, evil detail was left out. Most are too distressing for further publication.
He tells Detective Sergeant Darren Folau how he strangled both women in similar ways, before stuffing underwear in their mouths. After initially denying having sex with their dead bodies, because "that would be sick", he later admitted to necrophilia.
After killing his wife and having interfered with her body, Somerville says he, "kissed her on the forehead and said goodbye to her... I panicked. I dragged her off the bed, dragged her downstairs... I was more worried about the trouble I would get into and it was... crazy".
The necrophiliac who enjoyed mucking around with old arcade games then dragged the women to a stairwell cupboard and opened a manhole cover which gave access to the dark, sandy crawlspace underneath the house.
He used his hands and a piece of floorboard to scrape out shallow graves.
Somerville even admitted he had thought about keeping some of his wife's body parts and burying them under a newly-planted tree.
When forensic and specialist police officers starting pulling up the floor of his house, neighbour Shanita Araipu whose property adjoined it was "dry retching".
"It smells like rotten meat, since they started removing the floor," she told the Herald on Sunday at the time.
"You can smell the death. The smell is horrific."
In the police station, facing decades behind bars, a sobbing Somerville still couldn't explain what he had done. He says he was angry with the women, he felt "rejected, and that's about it".
"I don't understand... that's two lives I know I shouldn't have taken," said Somerville, who attended Linwood Baptist Church where his uncle and aunty were pastors.
"I honestly don't understand it cos it goes against each, everything I've been taught."
While Somerville told Taylor back in jail that he was sorry, he's never said it to his victims' families.
When he pleaded guilty to the depraved double murder and was sentenced at a crowded High Court in Christchurch in 2010, the heavily-bearded killer showed no remorse, nor did he apologise.
The lack of remorse was seized upon by Justice Lester Chisholm who told him: "For my part, Mr Somerville, I find this absolutely incomprehensible. Your conduct could hardly be worse."
Somerville's attitude provided an ominous indication that there is a risk he would reoffend, the judge said.
Somerville's lawyer, David Ruth, tried to give some explanation for Somerville's nature by pointing to a head injury and sexual abuse he suffered in his childhood.
"It does give some insight and background to this man and how he is made up," Ruth said.
"Right from the early days there has been a worrying trend of strangulation being part of his response to situations that are either not of his liking or stressful to him."
Lowry's mother, Tanya Roberts, said at the time she was haunted by nightmares of her daughter, who, like Chamberlain, was a mother-of-three, being buried or lying in a river.
"I wouldn't wish the emotions this has caused me on my worst enemy."
Lowry's sister, Leanne Hodder, was too upset to read her full victim impact statement to the court, in which she told Somerville: "I hate you with so much of myself that this hate I feel towards you is interfering with the rest of my life."
Her brother Jacob was even more scathing: "You do not deserve to be on this Earth."
The Lowry family declined to be interviewed for this story. Eleven years after their loved one's horrific death, the emotions are all too raw.
But Roberts did say she likes the fact the old "House of Horrors", as it became known - which was torn down after a series of arson attacks in the months after the bodies were removed - is now a memorial park and White Ribbon reserve.
She occasionally passes the city council-owned site and checks it's being kept tidy.
Today, some people cut through the park's weaving, sloping lane when late for the bus. But others prefer the long way round, with memories of the horrors beneath the house that once stood there still fresh in the memory.