Ordeal not over yet for Susan Burdett's family as Malcolm Rewa appeals murder conviction

The public gallery applauded on Tuesday as serial rapist Malcolm Rewa was finally sentenced to life in prison for the brutal murder of Susan Burdett in 1992.

But the wait is not yet over for Ms Burdett's family.

Two juries in the past were unable to decide if Rewa was guilty of murder. A 17-year-old Teina Pora was convicted for the crime, and his wrongful imprisonment for two decades worked in Rewa's favour.

"At the first two trials you were able to take advantage of the false confession by Mr Teina Pora, which is now being seen for what it was," Justice Geoff Venning told Rewa. 

But at Rewa's third trial last month, the jury took less than four hours to decide they did not believe him.

"I understand why the jury came to that view," Justice Venning said. "The evidence against you was overwhelming."

During his trial Rewa described a romantic relationship with Ms Burdett that included meet-ups for sex and watching the sunset.

"By advancing that story, you inflicted a further injustice and indignity on Ms Burdett and her memory," Justice Venning said. "The evidence didn't support any such relationship with you at all."

Rewa also claimed he and Ms Burdett drank fizzy wine and took ecstasy the night she was killed, but Justice Venning said it was clear the 39-year-old accounts clerk had an "abhorrence" for drugs.

The judge was similarly dismissive of Rewa's claims of contrition.

"I have seen no indication of remorse whatsoever for Ms Burdett's death."

Rewa may be able to apply for parole in eight years. The judge left it up to the parole board to decide if he should ever be let out.

After the sentencing, two victims of Rewa's many rapes embraced outside the High Court in Auckland - but the ordeal may not be over.

Rewa has lodged an appeal against his conviction and his defence lawyer doesn't believe he got a fair trial.

"He's calm, he's collected, he's focusing on the appeal," Paul Chambers said.

"We believe there's some physical evidence that supports his story, there's also issues about jury bias."

Ms Burdett's family have waited 27 years to see Rewa sentenced for her murder, but the appeal means they can't put him completely behind them just yet.