A surprise guilty plea has ended Timothy Joseph Foley’s trial on a charge of murdering 41-year-old Michelle Mary Lawrence in June 2012.
Foley, 54, changed his plea to guilty before jury selection in the High Court at Christchurch today.
Justice Cameron Mander remanded him in custody for sentencing on March 6, when he will also receive a three-strikes warning for violent offenders.
No summary of facts was read in court because Crown prosecutor Chris Lange said there were still some “issues” about the details of the police account of the murder. The summary will be presented for the sentencing.
The guilty plea followed days of discussions in closed court that began on Thursday, and continued yesterday morning while the jury panel waited in the Court House for more than an hour.
The court resumed early this morning and when Foley was brought in, the charge was read and he pleaded guilty.
Justice Mander thanked the legal teams involved in the trial, which was to last more than two weeks – Mr Lange and Anselm Williams for the Crown, and brothers Simon Shamy and Phil Shamy for Foley.
“I am grateful for your patience and for the time and effort you have put into this matter,” said the judge.
Michelle Lawrence was bashed by Foley at an address in Worcester Street, Linwood, on June 10.
Police were called to the address at 1am. It is understood Foley made the 111 call that brought them there. The trial would have been played the recording of the call to emergency services in which he admitted an assault.
Foley and the victim were known to each other.
Michelle Lawrence was admitted to hospital in critical condition and died there about three weeks later.
Police initially charged Foley with intentionally causing grievous bodily harm but laid the more serious charge after her death.
Foley pleaded not guilty and was insisting that all witnesses had to be called at the trial rather than having their evidence read to the court, and there was to be no statement of agreed facts – a common procedure in trials.
The Crown was to call evidence from 47 witnesses including Michelle Lawrence’s family and friends, neighbours, emergency services, telecommunications experts, scientists and police.
When he was remanded in custody for sentence, Foley mouthed “Thank you” to the judge and his defence team.