By TONY STICKLEY
Epifania Suluape was yesterday jailed for seven and a half years for the "brutal and callous" slaying of her philandering husband.
Paulo Suluape, a world-renowned Samoan tattooist, died after being bludgeoned nine times with the back of an axe as he sat playing the organ in a sleepout at their Otara home in November 1999.
Suluape, a 55-year-old mother of five, was last month cleared of her husband's murder but found guilty of his manslaughter at a trial in the High Court at Auckland.
Yesterday, Crown lawyer Howard Lawry told Justice Tony Randerson that it was a sustained attack in a case which was "pretty close to murder."
The judge agreed that the case was at the upper end of the scale of manslaughter.
He said he was sentencing Suluape on the basis that the jury had reduced murder to manslaughter because of her husband's provocative behaviour.
"You killed your husband as a result of his advice to you that he was leaving you for another woman. You became incensed and killed him in a fit of anger," the judge said.
The case was on the borderline between murder and manslaughter and he felt the jury's verdict could be regarded as merciful.'
In an impassioned speech, Suluape's lawyer, Kevin Ryan, QC, spoke of the slights, hurts and humiliation Suluape suffered at the hands of her faithless husband over the years.
He had given her venereal disease and had paraded his Swedish lover, Heidi Hay, around her homeland of Samoa to the great dishonour and disgrace of his wife, related to the Roman Catholic cardinal on the island.
Mr Ryan appealed for a merciful sentence which would not deprive the children of their mother for too long.
They had already lost their father and feared that their mother, who suffers from diabetes, would die alone in prison.
Mr Ryan said she was "left to live a lonely life in the mean wasteland of Otara" while her husband had an affair and frequently went overseas.
He referred to the Law Commission's recent call for women in abusive relationships to get reduced sentences for killing their abusing partner.
But Justice Randerson said that, although genuine cases of battered woman syndrome could be taken into account in sentencing, he did not believe this was one.
The degree of emotional and physical abuse Suluape claimed had been exaggerated.
Justice Randerson characterised it as a brutal killing carried out with an element of deliberation and callousness.
Suluape had found out that her husband was having an affair two months earlier. On the day of the killing they had discussed their relationship.
He had made it clear that he was leaving her for another woman and would not be coming back.
Suluape left the sleepout after this conversation but returned about 15 minutes later with an axe. Her husband, who had not seen the weapon, was then struck nine times around the head.
The judge said that Suluape's callous conduct afterwards was also a factor.
She showered and watched television. The next day she took her younger children to school, leaving her 18-year-old daughter to find her father lying dead in a pool of blood.
Suluape had denied her involvement to police until confronted with evidence of blood-stained clothing in her bedroom.
It was then that she showed them where the axe was.
Justice Randerson said that there was now a deep rift in the family, which might never be healed.
By TONY STICKLEY