A jealous truck driver who bashed his Christchurch neighbour and sometimes lover to death with a metal bar has today been jailed for at least 11 years.
Timothy Joseph Foley, 55, was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 11 years, eight months at the High Court in Christchurch for the murder of 41-year-old Michelle Mary Lawrence in the suburb of Linwood on June 9, 2012.
That night, he went to her flat and struck her around the head "at least eight times" with a steel jemmy bar.
Foley phoned 111 before covering her with a blanket and leaving her bloodied and dying on the floor.
She was rushed to hospital and was in a coma for three weeks before she died on June 30.
Foley was then charged with murder.
This morning, Foley sacked defence counsel Stephen Hembrow.
Lawrence's family groaned at Foley's eleventh hour move.
Foley then objected to victim impact statements being read in court, claiming that they were written by police officers.
Crown prosecutor Christopher Lange rubbished the claims, and Justice Cameron Mander allowed them to be heard in court.
Lawrence's mother, Christine Lawrence, said that eople said child birth was the worst possible pain, but losing a child to a violent act was much worse.
She said delays to Foley's trial had put the family through extra pain.
Lawrence's brother John said his heart was "shattered" by the brutal murder.
"You, Tim Foley, decided that if you couldn't have her, then no one could," he said.
The emotional, physical, and mental stress caused by the murder "can never be fixed", he said.
"We now have a life sentence for what you did."
Her daughter Samantha Lawrence described her mother as a kind, gentle, strong, and caring person.
"There are no words to express the pain, anger, and despair our family has endured over last three years," she said.
"You've stolen a big part of me and I will never forgive you."
Lawrence was a vulnerable victim, Lange said.
Of small build, she was attacked in her home where she lived alone.
It was a premeditated attack, Lange said, given that he was loaned the metal bar several weeks earlier, and he had taken it to the house "for purpose of the assault".
Foley today claimed he had always admitted his guilt.
But he denied striking Lawrence eight times with a jemmy bar, but rather "twice with a garden gnome".
He claimed "corruption" and a "miscarriage of justice" over his case, and indicated that he would be appealing against his conviction and sentence.
Justice Mander said Foley and Lawrence had been in an intermittent relationship together.
But Foley had "harboured some jealousy" after thinking she was having a relationship with another man.
Reports before the court say Foley - who has 85 previous convictions primarily for fraud and dishonesty - has a "habit of telling grandiose lies".
Foley showed little emotion as he was led back into custody.
Outside court, the Lawrence family said that no sentence could "ever bring Michelle back".
But they could rest assured that Foley could not harm anyone else "for quite some time to come".
"Our family can now concentrate on trying to move forward and returning to some sort of normality, focusing on the loving memories we have of Michelle."