A man who stabbed Lower Hutt resident Matthew Stevens before pushing him and a van down a hill to fool police into thinking he was in an accident has been sentenced to at least 11 years behind bars.
Stuart Graham Wilton, 27, was one of three people accused of murdering Mr Stevens on the Kapiti Coast in November last year. He initially pleaded not guilty to the charge before changing his plea earlier in October.
His co-accused Kelly Leigh Crook, 28, and Darrin John Wilkie-Morris, 24 have pleaded not guilty and are still set to stand trial.
In the High Court at Wellington, the court heard how the trio tricked Mr Stevens into visiting a Kapiti Coast house so they could confront him over an unknown issue.
During an argument, Wilton stabbed Mr Stevens three times before his body was bundled into a van while they attempted to clear the house of evidence.
Soon after, they threw his body out of the van then pushed it and the vehicle off the Paekakariki Hill Road so police would think it was an accident.
It was not until a post-mortem examination that Mr Stevens' stab wounds were discovered.
His sister, Emma Stevens, told the court this morning how their family had been devastated by his death.
"My world has been turned upside down because of you," she said.
"I lay awake every night thinking of my brother's last moments with these people."
Justice Simon France said he had accepted Wilton's letter of remorse but it did not excuse how he had treated Mr Steven's body after the murder, adding an extra year to the non-parole period.
He was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of 11 years behind bars.