Edmund Wang visits the grave of his murdered mother, Joanne, every day to tell her what he has learned at school and about the people he has met.

The little boy was used to her tucking him up in bed each night and reading bedtime stories in English and Chinese.

That all ended when Christopher Jacob Shadrock, in a stolen 4WD, ran Mrs Wang down and left her for dead.

The 23-year-old was trying to escape the Westfield Manukau car park after he snatched Mrs Wang's handbag, containing a large amount of cash, as she got into a van with Edmund.

She gave chase and was knocked over by the 4WD, which had reversed and then driven forward to get away. She died the following day from massive head injuries.

Yesterday, Shadrock began a life sentence for the murder after being sentenced in the High Court at Auckland. He must serve a minimum term of 12 years.

Other young men were also jailed for their part in the robbery and in the cover-up that followed.

Vila Lemanu, 25, was sentenced to three years for the theft of Mrs Wang's handbag and being an accessory after the fact to her murder.

Lionel Te Kanawa, 24, was sentenced to two years and Maka Tuikolovatu, 22, to 18 months after both were found guilty to being an accessory after the fact.

Terence Tere, 22, and Matene Lynch, 20, were also found guilty of being an accessory after the fact to murder but had their sentencing delayed so home detention could be considered.

Mrs Wang's husband, Jialin Huang, said words could not say how much the family missed her. Before her death he "couldn't [have] asked for more" but now "everything was ruined".

He worried about the effect witnessing his mother's hit-and-run has had on Edmund. Everyday life wasn't the same and the youngster no longer had a "smiley face".

When Shadrock snatched Mrs Wang's bag, she and Edmund were having an after-school chat they never had a chance to finish. Later in hospital, Edmund asked when he could see his mum, but she never woke up.

Mrs Wang's father spoke of the pain her death had caused, saying it was "as if someone has taken a knife and cut open my chest and taken a piece of my heart without anaesthetic".

"Cruel young men" had turned his life upside down and he now lived with a "shadow over my life".

Mrs Wang had told him New Zealand was a safe and beautiful country and she wanted her parents to live nearby so she could look after them.

Her mother thought she came to NZ to enjoy a wonderful, retired life.

"I never thought about coming here to bury my own beautiful daughter. My grieving is so raw I don't know how to deal with this experience," she said.

The family and police declined to give the parents' names.

Justice Rodney Hansen said Shadrock and the others were using a method well known among the criminal fraternity in South Auckland when they came across Mrs Wang in the car park on June 16, 2008.

Women - usually of Chinese or Indian descent - were targeted by bag snatchers because they were thought to carry large sums of cash and wouldn't fight back.

Two cars would be used during the attack. One was usually stolen and contained the robber. Friends in the second car provided support and a getaway when the stolen car was dumped.

Justice Hansen told the prisoners that preying on law-abiding citizens going about their everyday lives was "reprehensible" and targeting Mrs Wang was "cowardly and despicable".

Despite their remorse, nothing they could do could change what happened.

"Edmund must live the rest of his life without his mother's love ... Nothing can take away the pain in their hearts."