A man has been jailed for life and will serve at least 17 years behind bars for murdering his girlfriend, in a beating where she was punched over 100 times.
Samuel Hamuera Pou, 60, appeared in front of Justice Tracey Walker at the High Court in Whangārei on Tuesday for sentencing, following a retrial.
Bridget Odelle Simmonds, 42, was reported missing in March 2019 and Pou initially told police he had no involvement in her disappearance.
But, more than a year later, Pou admitted Simmonds died after he beat her for about 90 minutes, delivering 100 blows to her legs and hands.
In a police interview, he said he didn’t mean to kill her, deliberately concentrating his blows onto her legs, so she didn’t die.
Pou led police to her remains, in a shallow ditch at a rural property west of Whangārei, where the pair had been camping.
During sentencing, a note written by Simmonds’ late mother Carol Callen – who died before the retrial – was read out.
Callen wrote if Pou was sentenced for his crime, she hoped the number of years stolen from her daughter would be taken into consideration.
A recorded victim impact statement from Callen was played to the court, where she spoke of the deep depression she felt after her daughter disappeared.
“In my heart I knew the truth; that she was dead. What was worse was she knew she was going to die – her last words to me were, don’t forget my headstone.”
Pou had beaten Simmonds several times, Callen said, and her family encouraged her to go to the police.
“The attacks on Bridget were obviously from someone who had no understanding of sympathy, empathy or compassion and certainly not love.
“Bridget died at the hands of a man who would break his own hands to teach her a lesson, to teach her who was boss, to teach her not to look at anyone else.
“No sentence can ever ease this pain for any of us. My daughter was murdered but so many people loved her and that love will shine through.”
Simmonds’ uncle, John Callen previously described Simmonds as “tremendous fun”, a lovely artist, devoted mother to her two children and an adventurer.
He said Pou had a rough upbringing and never knew the kind of love, support and encouragement he, Simmonds’ mother and their siblings had.
“None of that, in my opinion, justifies anything but it might help explain a certain attitude.
“At the heart of it, it is now more than four years since Bridget was killed and we have yet to hear one word of remorse.”
Speaking on behalf of the entire Callen family, Simmonds’ aunty Irene Callen said her death was possibly the “worst chapter” in their family history.
“I understand he [Pou], had a hard childhood. Maybe he never learnt what we learnt; care and respect – but many others choose not to do what he did.
“There’s not been one word of regret and remorse. Maybe you just don’t know how.”
‘High level’ of brutality in fatal beating
Crown prosecutor Bernadette O’Connor said the fatal beating had shown a “high level” of brutality, cruelty and callousness, during which Simmonds’ ankles were broken, so she couldn’t escape.
”Her suffering must’ve been evident during the beating, but the defendant displayed indifference to that.
“He concealed her body and denied knowing where she was for 15 months, while her family desperately searched.”
Justice Walker noted there were aggravating features involved in the murder, including the brutality of the attack, the vulnerability of Simmonds and earlier offending.
She sentenced Pou to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years.