Life sentence for Work and Income killer Russell Tully

Russell Tully at his sentencing in Christchurch
Russell Tully at his sentencing in Christchurch

Russell Tully at his sentencing in Christchurch

The man who killed two people at a Work and Income office has been sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 27 years.

He will not be considered for parole until the age of 77.

Russell Tully was found guilty of the murders of Ashburton Work and Income employees Peggy Noble and Susan Cleveland, after he entered the office on September 1, 2014 and fired his shotgun.

He also attempted to murder their colleague, Kim Adams, and is guilty of unlawfully possessing two firearms.

He was sentenced in the Christchurch High Court by Justice Cameron Mander. Today the Crown called the shooting "callous, cold-blooded and calculated".

Closure for families

Ministry of Social Development chief executive Brendan Boyle hopes today's sentencing provides some closure for Peg's and Leigh's families and loved ones.

"The families have endured much pain since 1 September 2014 and this is a small step towards their recovery. My thoughts are with them.

"It's also significant for our Ashburton staff and the other victims. Our staff have endured much and today's sentencing will also help them as they continue to move on from that day, but never forgetting their lost colleagues and friends," Mr Boyle said.

In the lead-up to the shooting Tully had been trespassed from the office after multiple dealings with the staff, who described the 49-year-old as intimidating.

Tully is nearing the end of his long court battle, with the jury's verdict in March coming after 10 days of evidence and many court disruptions in the months prior.

The jury found him not guilty of another count of attempted murder for Lindy Curtis and not guilty of setting a man trap.

Life sentence for Work and Income killer Russell Tully

Russell John Tully sits in the High Court in Christchurch as he is sentenced for the murder of two Work and Income employees and the attempted murder of a third

Impact on the victims

Five victim impacts statements were read out in court today, the common theme among the women was the stress and impact the event still has on their lives.

Kim Adams, who narrowly escaped a bullet as she fled out the door, spoke of her life before the shooting. She described herself as a usually bubbly and outgoing woman, but now struggles to laugh or go to sleep.

Ms Adams said she loved the job she had been in for 19 years, but now is mentally exhausted, has been diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and suffers anxiety attacks.

"I now feel lost," she says.

Ms Adams says her children's lives have also been affected, as she is unable to "be there emotionally" for them. Often her children will have to accompany her on simple outings to the supermarket, as she fears being alone or in big crowds. 

"I will never forget the day the person I tried to help tried to end my life," Ms Adams said, while looking at Tully in the dock next to her.

Peggy Noble's granddaughter Krystal Bishop described a loving Nana who cared for everyone. Ms Bishop says the family was devastated they never got to say goodbye to their "Nana Peg".

"We are forced to live with just the memories."

Work and Income worker Alison Kermode said the women were not the "happy girls they used to be". She described her "true friend"  Peggy Noble and their trips to watch the rugby.

A part of them all died on that day too, she said.

Leigh-Anne Hydes, like her colleagues, suffers from PTSD as well. She was terrified she would die that day as well.

"I will never be able to express the overwhelming relief I felt when the policeman walked through the door," she says.

Ms Hydes said she will never forget the sounds and smells of the shooting.

"In an office like ours these ladies were not just our colleagues, they were our friends," she said.

Her family was also affected, with her sons telling her she "didn't laugh much anymore".

Ms Hydes called Tully manipulative, but has decided she will no longer be his victim.

Jane Hayman was also diagnosed with PTSD after the shooting. She thought she was the only survivor that day, as no one else followed her out of the building.

She said the impact has been far-reaching, affecting her family greatly. Ms Hayman said she found returning to work stressful and took her children to the office to show them it was safe, although felt doubtful herself. She is reluctant to decline the individuals she works with because she fears their reaction.

Ms Hayman said the past 18 months had been an "emotional rollercoaster" and she now had increased appreciation for the little things in life.

'No remorse' - Justice Mander

Justice Mander said if there was more staff in the office that day, he has no doubt there would be more fatalities. He said no sentence would compensate for the grief and harm Tully had caused his victims. 

He called him a "dangerous" man, with narcissistic tendencies and showed no remorse.