A man jailed for brutally murdering his partner has lost a court appeal after arguing his disadvantaged background should mitigate his tough penalty.

Robert Hohua was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years in December 2017 after being found guilty of the murder of Marie Harlick.

Hohua punched, kicked and stomped his partner to death at her home in Ōpōtiki in November 2016.

He took an appeal against his conviction and sentence to the Court of Appeal.

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The court considered a report detailing Hohua's "extremely disadvantaged background", which his legal team argued was connected to the offending and should therefore mitigate the sentence.

Robert Roupere Hohua pictured in the dock of the High Court at Tauranga. Photo / Alan Gibson
Robert Roupere Hohua pictured in the dock of the High Court at Tauranga. Photo / Alan Gibson

In a just-released decision, Justice Mander acknowledged the connection, but rejected this argument given the vicious nature of the murder.

"That [connection] does not appear to have been regarded as having much, if any, mitigating effect when set against the nature and brutality of Ms Harlick's murder," the Court decision said.

Hohua broke into Harlick's Opotiki home in 2016 after becoming convinced she was being unfaithful, and brutally beat her to death while their 19-month-old daughter, Vivienne, watched. Hohua was eventually arrested when a worried neighbour called police after they heard prolonged banging, stomping and yelling coming from the house.

The neighbour who called 111 at 9.58pm said they heard a man shout "get up before I kill you", or "get up or I'll kill you".

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Hohua was on bail at the time, and police had been called on multiple previous occasions to resolve domestic violence issues between the two. The attack was not the first, but it was the last.

Harlick suffered, amongst other injuries, internal bleeding caused by a stomp on her abdomen, which Hohua's counsel submitted was the primary cause of death.

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Vicki Harlick holds a photograph of her sister Marie Harlick, who was brutally murdered in the house she shared with her partner in the Bay of Plenty towhship of Opotiki. Photo / Alan Gibson
Vicki Harlick holds a photograph of her sister Marie Harlick, who was brutally murdered in the house she shared with her partner in the Bay of Plenty towhship of Opotiki. Photo / Alan Gibson

In the appeal, his lawyer argued Hohua did not know the strike which caused this injury would go on to cause her death, calling into question Hohua's intent. Hohua's legal team argued for manslaughter rather than murder.

However the court found that there was no evidence that Hohua's intention changed between this strike and the many others during the attack, and that the injuries suffered by Harlick were consistent with an intention to kill.

A forensic pathologist also found there was no single cause of death. Instead Harlick died "as a result of various injuries caused by blunt force trauma".

Vicki Harlick, Marie's sister, earlier told the Herald her family would never be the same, but the life imprisonment sentence was the correct decision.

"Nothing is ever going to bring my sister back," she said. "But it can bring hope to other women."

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