Blessie Gotingco's murderer Tony Robertson sentenced

Tony Robertson
Tony Robertson

Blessie Gotingco's family say while they're relieved her "evil and cowardly" murderer is behind bars, her death was totally preventable.

Tony Robertson has been sentenced to life in prison for Blessie Gotingco's murder with a minimum non-parole period of 24 years, and preventive detention for raping her.

As preventive detention is indefinite, the judge has imposed a minimum non-parole period of 10 years for Ms Gotingco's rape.

The sentences will be served concurrently.

He appeared this morning before Justice Timothy Brewer in front of a packed courtroom of Ms Gotingco's friends and family at the High Court in Auckland.

Robertson did not react as the sentence was read and stood with his head bowed, cuffed to a security guard.

The 28-year-old was found guilty in May of running down Ms Gotingco on Auckland's North Shore, before taking her back to his apartment where he raped her and stabbed her to death, before dumping her body in a nearby cemetery.

Justice Brewer noted Robertson's continued insistence that running down Ms Gotingco in his car was an accident.

However he said the way Robertson acted after he ran her down was consistent with the Crown's theory he did it on purpose, and inconsistent with "mere accident".

The judge said the rape was at the highest end of the spectrum, and to rape a severely injured woman was a "bestial action".

He accepted Robertson had mental health problems which made him "impulsive and quick to anger", but that was insignificant compared to his actions.

He also accepted Robertson was on drugs at the time of the murder, but said it did not excuse what he did.

Crown prosecutor Michael Walker said Robertson should face a life sentence of 21 to 23 years without parole, as well as preventive detention on the rape charge.

Defence lawyer Chris Wilkinson-Smith objected to the length of the life sentence, saying similar crimes had warranted a life sentence of about 18 to 20 years without parole.

Robertson had refused to talk to doctors preparing pre-sentence reports, which were instead based on analysis of his lengthy medical file.

The report noted it was uncertain whether he was capable of rehabilitation in prison, saying the prospects looked "bleak".

His family support was contingent on him entering rehabilitation programmes.

In a victim impact statement read to the court, Ms Gotingco's husband of 30 years Antonio described his ongoing pain at her murder.

"Words cannot express the pain and torturous anguish our family, friends and I have endured since Blessie's senseless and brutal murder at the hands of the offender."

He described her as the family's "guiding light" and said the family's lives were in chaos with her gone.

"We have been robbed of the very essence of our lives."

Ms Gotingco's murder "was a cruel, depraved, vicious attack" and had shaken his belief in humanity to the core. The family were missing a wife, mother and grandmother, he said.

"My grief is such that my very will to live is in jeopardy, knowing this aching void in my heart will never be filled with happiness again."

He described how the family were also financially suffering and fearful of how they would make ends meet in future.

"Blessie was the light of our home and lives and now we live in darkness."

Ms Gotingco's eldest son John also read a statement on behalf of all her children. Her murder had been "beyond devastating" for the family.

"The wounds cause us constant anguish."

His faith in law and order had been "irreparably broken" but he hoped her death would serve as a catalyst for change.

"I can only hope that her passing was not in vain and she doesn't end up as just another statistic."

Outside court, a statement was read out on behalf of the Gotingco family by friend Alan Wharerau.

"The Gotingco family are extremely relieved this cowardly and evil offender has now been sentenced and the public can be kept safe," he said.

"We are forever hopeful that now this sentence has been passed down, Robertson will never walk the streets again.

"Blessie’s death was totally preventable and highlights that current New Zealand system does not effectively monitor high-risk offenders.

"Offenders like him should not be released given their extreme risk . . . Blessie paid for this with her life."

Robertson kept his name suppression throughout his four-week trial and was particularly concerned about what jurors knew of his criminal history.

He took his battle for continued suppression as far as the Supreme Court, which overturned his appeal and last week his previous conviction as a child molester was revealed.

Robertson served eight years in prison for the abduction and molestation of a five-year-old girl in 2005 and, after his release last December, breached his release conditions on several occasions.

Just six months after being released, he killed Ms Gotingco.

The murder prompted an internal review into the Department of Corrections' handling of Robertson, who was on GPS monitoring and breached his conditions several times.

However the review found the department's handling was "appropriate and highly responsive".

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Issues with preventive detention

Sources: Department of Corrections, Ministry of Justice, Stats NZ