Vivienne will be 19 before the only father figure she's ever known might be released for murdering her mother

Marie Harlick did the maths when she heard the judge say 17 years.

"Vivienne is going to be 19 years old when he's eligible for parole," Harlick said of Robert Hohua, the man who murdered her niece, also called Marie Harlick.

"We don't know when he'll get out, but that's when he's eligible. And fingers crossed, I'll do my best, we'll have a strong, strong 19-year-old Vivienne."

Marie Harlick is the legal guardian of Vivienne, the youngest of her murdered niece's five daughters.

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She was 19 months old when she watched her mother get beaten to death, then hidden under a blanket beside her.

Hohua, a Mongrel Mob enforcer, admitted the manslaughter of his partner Marie Harlick, nicknamed Mush, but said he did not mean to kill her.

He was found guilty of murder after a jury trial and was sentenced by Justice Anne Hinton in the High Court at Tauranga on Wednesday.

She handed him a life sentence and imposed a minimum period of 17 years before he was eligible for parole because of the high level of brutality and callousness of the 20-minute assault, as well as the fact Hohua was unlawfully in Harlick's house.

He was on bail at the time of the murder for a previous assault on Harlick and breached those conditions when he killed her.

Marie Harlick was a mother to seven children. Photo/Supplied.
Marie Harlick was a mother to seven children. Photo/Supplied.

Hohua indicated he will appeal the murder conviction.

A Herald investigation last month revealed Hohua's lengthy criminal history - 78 previous convictions - and the fact he was released on bail, twice, for an assault on Harlick before the murder.

Hohua told the a probation officer his criminal record "sickened him" and was the result of an horrendous upbringing, where he was handed around the family. He claimed to be physically and sexually abused by relatives - when he told someone, they beat him more.

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His mother was unlikely to know he was convicted of murder unless she read the newspapers, Hohua told the pre-sentence report writer.

"I find that sad," said Justice Hinton.

Before Hohua was sentenced, members of Marie Harlick's whanau read victim impact statements to the court.

Marie Harlick's family do not believe Robert Hohua is Vivienne's father. Photo/Supplied.
Marie Harlick's family do not believe Robert Hohua is Vivienne's father. Photo/Supplied.

Her aunt Marie Harlick spoke first, on behalf of Vivienne. The family say Hohua, who has seven children, is not the father of Vivienne.

Regardless, the 36-year-old is the only dad Vivienne has ever known.

Marie Harlick, whom Vivienne calls "Nana", looked him in the eye and told him what he'd done.

"She was an absolute mess. Vivienne was an empty little person. She couldn't look people in the eyes," Marie Harlick said in court.

"She was frightened and needed constant reassurance. If my teenagers were play fighting, she'd run away."

Vivienne wakes up every morning around 2am, screaming for "Mummy".

"I know this is because of what Robert did to Mush and what Vivienne saw," said Marie Harlick.

"We talk about Mush every day. I have to tell her mummy is gone. This is very difficult.

"Robert has taken the arms of her mother away. I'll give her a good life but I can't replace the arms of her mother."

Outside court, Marie Harlick said she had to "stand up" for Vivienne in court and look Hohua in the eye.

"He needed to know. And I needed to tell him. So that released a really big load.

"He looked me in the eye a couple of times. When I spoke of Vivienne, he actually looked like it got him. Actually looked like there was a little bit of sorrow there."

Marie Harlick has previously spoken to the Herald about the challenges of raising Vivienne.

Marie Harlick is now the legal guardian of Vivienne, who turns 3 next year. Photo / Alan Gibson.
Marie Harlick is now the legal guardian of Vivienne, who turns 3 next year. Photo / Alan Gibson.

But she's determined the little girl will grow into a young woman with strong character.

"So when he comes out, if he tries to contact her, she's got her own choices to make. And if she's not comfortable, it's okay to walk away. It's okay to ask questions," Marie Harlick told the Herald outside court.

"I can only do so much, I'll do what I can, but when it comes to that true story, only Robert [Hohua] knows that story. Only Robert and little Vivienne."

If you're in danger now:

• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours of friends to ring for you.
• Run outside and head for where there are other people.
• Scream for help so that your neighbours can hear you.
• Take the children with you.
• Don't stop to get anything else.
• If you are being abused, remember it's not your fault. Violence is never okay

Where to go for help or more information:

• Women's Refuge: Free national crisis line operates 24/7 - 0800 refuge or 0800 733 843 www.womensrefuge.org.nz
• Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633 www.2shine.org.nz
• It's Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450 www.areyouok.org.nz
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and middle eastern women and their children. Crisis line 24/7 0800 742 584 • Ministry of Justice: www.justice.govt.nz/family-justice/domestic-violence
• National Network of Stopping Violence: www.nnsvs.org.nz
• White Ribbon: Aiming to eliminate men's violence towards women, focusing this year on sexual violence and the issue of consent. www.whiteribbon.org.nz

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