An Auckland painter thought he was breaking up a fight, but as he got closer he saw one man was being stabbed and a woman lying dead on the ground.

Zane Paki, a husband and father, said he acted instinctively to stop Mandeep Singh, who had just murdered his wife before turning on her friend in the foyer of a central Auckland language school in May.

Singh, 29, was yesterday sentenced to life with a minimum parole period of 13 years for killing his wife, Parmita Rani, 22, and stabbing her friend who he suspected she was having an affair with, Parminder Sandhu, who was also 22.

Mr Paki had just signed in at the reception of the AWI International Education Group where he was to do some painting, and had gone outside to get his gear.

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When he returned to the third floor of the Queen St building, the doors opened and he was met with chaos.

"When I came out of the elevator I thought there was a fire because everyone was running around like something was on fire," he said.

"When I came around the corner I just thought these two guys were having a fight, when I looked closely I saw he was stabbing him in the ears and I thought it was just them two.

"I grabbed the knife off him and threw it on the ground and then the crowd kind of moved away, there was about 40 of them and none of them spoke very good English , when they moved I saw [Parmita] was on the ground and I didn't know it then, but she wasn't alive."

He said he took Singh away from the crowd and sat him down to try and calm him down.

"He was still yelling out and then he pulled out another knife so I threw that knife on the ground."

The police arrived soon after and took Mr Singh - who still had a number of knives on him - away.

Mr Paki said the incident was deeply shocking and revealed how prevalent domestic violence was in the community.

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"It's sad because domestic violence is just everywhere - it's not just Indians but for all communities. This happened right in the middle of Queen St. You can't stab your wife just because you think she is having an affair."