Child-killer Jules Mikus has died in jail, more than 32 years after he took the life of six-year-old schoolgirl Teresa Cormack in Napier.
Reported in September to be terminally-ill with a brain tumour, Mikus died on Friday in Remutaka Prison, about 10km from where his sudden arrest took place in Hutt Valley suburb Naenae in 2002.
That arrest was almost 15 years after the killing often said to have changed a nation in the way it dealt with the way children went to and from school.
His death was confirmed by the Corrections Department, saying there were no suspicious circumstances but that as a death in custody it was still being referred to a Coroner.
Teresa Cormack disappeared from the streets of suburban Napier on the morning of June 19, 1987, the day after her 6th birthday, having left home in McLaren Cr, Onekawa South, walking to Richmond School, Maraenui.
Mikus, who was 61 when he died, escaped detection for almost 15 years before being arrested at home in Naenae by Napier detectives Brian Schaab and Keith Price on the morning of February 26, 2002.
He was nailed by advanced technology linking his DNA with samples taken from the girl after her body was found on a beach north of Napier at Whirinaki eight days after she disappeared.
Mikus, arrested as a 44-year-old sickness beneficiary living with a partner of several years, pleaded not guilty to all charges relating to the horror but was found guilty by a jury which deliberated just two hours at the end of a trial in October 2002.
The sentencing regime that existed at the time of the death didn't allow a minimum non-parole sentence for murder, but he was sentenced to life, as well as preventive detention for rape and 14 years for abduction and sexual assault.
Price, a senior Napier City councillor now long-retired from the police, last saw the killer sitting in the dock as the officer gave evidence at the trial which was held in Wellington after a successful application by defence counsel Stephen Gill based on the risk of an unfair trial in a city outraged by the events that had happened.
Price learnt of the death at the weekend and said: "I didn't grieve for too long - I didn't grieve at all."
He also hadn't seen bereaved mother Kelly Pigott for some time, and wouldn't know how she might react to the news that Mikus had "gone", but said:
"She has been very strong, but it doesn't go away, it never goes away."
Defence counsel Gill was unaware of the death until informed by Hawke's Bay Today, and said he had had no contact with Mikus since the sentence was delivered by Justice Warwick Gendall in Wellington on November 1, 2002.
Shouts of "bastard'', "scum'' and "hope you rot'' from the public gallery farewelled Mikus as he was led-away by two prison officers after Justice Gendall told him: "You have sponged off the taxpayers of New Zealand and have committed a wide range of crimes."
"There are no mitigating features," the Judge said. "There are absolutely no redeeming features and that's a dreadful thing to say about a fellow human being.''
The DNA, which when linked with other evidence, including his presence in the area of the abduction at the time it happened, excluded the possibility of anyone else being the killer, but Mikus continued his denial.
He failed to have the conviction overturned in the Court of Appeal in 2011, and later expanded on denials in material sent to some of the media involved in reporting the case.