Key Points:

Lois Dear's son got his wish to express his feelings to his mother's killer yesterday. But as Kevin McNeil read his victim impact statement, the killer, Whetu Te Hiko, slumped in the dock and covered his ears with his hands.

"I think I got a bit of a win there," Mr McNeil said outside the High Court at Hamilton, referring to the battle he had endured after being originally told he would have to tone the statement down.

"I think I've proven a point. Everything I've set out to achieve has been achieved."

Te Hiko, 23, was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 18 years for Ms Dear's murder in her Strathmore School classroom.

Justice Lester Chisholm found there was a sexual element to the crime and suppressed some of the disturbing details of the state in which the 66-year-old teacher's body was found at the Tokoroa primary school.

The Weekend Herald is allowed to publish that her trousers had been removed and her underwear lowered down to one ankle. Her top had also been lifted to expose her bra.

Ms Dear's family said they were happy with Te Hiko's sentence.

"Eighteen years is the best we could possibly expect," said her brother, Harley Dear.

Mr McNeil said the sentence was not closure, but he was relieved the judge had agreed with the Crown that sexual intent, as well as the theft of Ms Dear's car, was a motive.

"Mum's pants weren't taken down for nothing," he said. "I felt disgusted by that and I'm really pleased that they did agree with that, that there was some intent there."

Mr McNeil praised the judge for allowing him and other family members to read out their victim impact statements, despite some containing comments directed at the criminal or the justice system not usually allowed by the courts.

He said it had been very important for him to read the statement, in which he described Te Hiko as "pathetic, gutless and dumb", because it was the only way victims had to express their feelings about a crime.

"Victim impact statements are huge," he said.

Mr Dear, who read a lengthy statement, agreed. "It gave us a good chance to express how we felt about it and get our grief across and let the prisoner know exactly how he affected us."

Justice Chisholm said he allowed Mr McNeil's statement because his words were "the expression of the impact of his mother's death".

He said Te Hiko would have heard the impact of his crime when Ms Dear's family read out their statements.

"It's little wonder that there has been unbridled anger at this cowardly and evil killing," the judge said.

"The ferocity of the attack on her is self-evident from the photographs I have seen."

Ms Dear died of asphyxia, and a pathologist found she was subjected to blunt-force trauma to the head and chest. Her injuries included a broken nose and ribs.

Justice Chisholm dismissed Te Hiko's claims that her clothing had come off in the course of the struggle.

"I'm satisfied there was a sexual dimension. I don't think it existed initially but I'm sure that it did develop during the course of the attack in the schoolroom."

Ms Dear had been much loved by her family, school, friends and the wider Tokoroa community.

"It's patently obvious that she was a kind and wonderful person who would not have harmed anyone."

Te Hiko had blamed alcohol for his actions, but the judge dismissed his excuse.

"All too often alcohol and drugs are blamed for violent offending. They offer no excuse, and I can tell you, Mr Te Hiko, they will not avail you of one iota of this sentence."

He was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that there was a sexual element to the crime after studying the photos, pathologist's report and forensic evidence.

Te Hiko's appearance had changed from his earlier appearances in the dock.

His head was shaved, exposing scars which he touched as he sat with his head bowed low and resting in his hands as the Dear family read their statements.

Te Hiko's lawyer, Harry Edward, and Crown prosecutor Fletcher Pilditch had both agreed the sentence should be life.

When Te Hiko stood to be sentenced, he put his hands in his pockets and appeared almost to smirk, but sighed after the judge said: "I now sentence you to life imprisonment."

Mitigating features in his favour were that he pleaded guilty before the matter went to trial and cooperated with police.

The judge said that without those mitigating features, he would have imposed a sentence of 20 to 21 years.

FAMILY PAIN
ARTHUR DEAR Lois' Brother "Lois always sent a birthday and Christmas card with $20 and a note saying 'have a beer on me'. The money does not matter but the cards I will miss. I have tears in my eyes as I write this. I'm still in shock about Lois being so callously murdered like that."

HARLEY DEAR Lois' brother "He has cut into us with an infected knife, which has taken Lois and spread infection through our family. She had great courage, but she was a 66-year-old woman of medium stature and would have been no match for a 23-year-old rugby league player. Lois' killer has not shown one ounce of remorse. All we've heard is self-pity. This attitude rubs salt into our wounds. Someone has spray-painted foul graffiti over our family history wall. 'Lois Dear murdered for selfish reasons' and the signature reads Whetu Te Hiko. This graffiti will never disappear."

HARLEY DEAR (SNR) Lois' father, 95 "I don't know how he did what he did. I hope they skin him alive. A life for a life. She had done nothing. I will miss her every day. She was my pal and my rock."

JAN ARMSTRONG Lois' daughter "How long had she taken to die? What were her last thoughts during the attack? What terror and pain did she go through? At the moment I feel no anger. I regret [mum's] lost opportunities. She was looking forward to retirement and seeing more of her grandchildren. These things will never happen for her."