An Australian "toy boy'' killer who drunkenly beat his New Zealand ex-girlfriend to death has been sentenced to at least 17 years in prison.

Former Hawkes Bay woman Debara Martin, 43, was found dead at a house in northern New South Wales on May 4 last year.

The chef and mother-of-two had moved to Australia, where she worked as a kitchen hand and was recovering from breast cancer, two years before her death.

A friend last year described her killer, Adam John Kennedy, 26, as her "toy boy'' and said they had recently split before her death.


Kennedy, who pleaded guilty to murder, was sentenced in the New South Wales Supreme Court yesterday to 23 years and four months in prison, with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years and four months, AAP reported.

The court was told Kennedy, a chef, had met Ms Martin when she was a sex worker.

He was grossly intoxicated on the night he subjected her to what Justice Geoffrey Bellew said was a "brutal and sustained'' attack.

Kennedy then showed up at his brother's house and asked for help to dispose of the body, but his brother refused, AAP reported.

He dumped the body on a sofa, drove off and was picked up by police when he was seen driving erratically the next morning.

Justice Bellew said Ms Martin's plan to return to sex work, and Kennedy's drunkenness, might have sparked the tension.

In court yesterday, Ms Martin's mother yelled out as Kennedy was led away, AAP reported.

"At least you get your life, Debbie doesn't. At least you can turn over in bed. Hope you're bloody satisfied,'' she said.