Woman admits her part in axe murder

Court House-Sept-2013-07A 26-year-old woman stood impassive in the dock as the details of her part in the brutal axe-murder of her mother-in-law in Picton last year were described in the High Court in Christchurch.

Janelle Amanda Holl pleaded guilty to the murder charge today, six months after her husband David Adrian Holl, 20, was sentenced to life imprisonment with a non-parole term of 15 years.

Justice Graham Panckhurst remanded her in custody for sentencing on July 18 in the Blenheim High Court. She will receive a three-strikes warning for repeat violent offenders when she is sentenced.

Holl said only, “Guilty, Your Honour”, when the charge of murdering Robyn Grace at Picton on January 13, 2013, was read to her.

She remained expressionless in the dock as Crown prosecutor Cathy Bell described the gruesome events to the court from the summary of facts.

Miss Bell said Robyn Grace was 43 at the time of her death. David Holl was her son.

In 2010, David Holl spoke to the Picton police in an interview that was recorded on DVD. He talked about wanting to be a serial killer.

Since then he was in regular contact with the police, the Children, Young Persons and their Families Service, and mental health agencies.

Janelle and David Holl had lived in a holiday park in Porirua but returned to Picton on January 5, 2013, and moved in with Ms Grace temporarily until they found a place to live. She let them have the main bedroom while she slept in the lounge.

The relationship between the three became strained to such an extent that Ms Grace slept in her car on the night of January 12.

When she came back home on January 13 she told the couple that they must move out, and she had already begun looking for a place for them.

When she went out, David Holl told his wife that he was going to kill his mother when she returned. The couple planned how they would kill her, either by strangulation using a rope, or with an axe. They planned to dismember the body and burn parts in the house fire.

David Holl got an axe from the carport, and the pair also had a rope, masking tape, and a note entitled, “Instructions, Revenge Plan.”

They sat and waited for Ms Grace’s return and when she came in the front door, David Holl grabbed her with one hand over her mouth. She began struggling and kicking out.

When he tried to pick up the axe, she broke away and made a break for the front door. The couple chased her and caught her at the door where she was screaming for help.

They pulled her into the lounge where she continued to struggle and scream. Neighbours heard the commotion and called the police.

David Holl and Ms Grace fell to the floor and he yelled to Janelle Holl to “use the axe”. She picked up the axe and struck her mother-in-law several times with the back of the axe, on her back and head.

When Ms Grace fell down, she was dragged to the bathroom, and Janelle Holl started cleaning up.

When David Holl called her into the bathroom, they saw that Ms Grace was still alive and they took turns hitting her with the back of the axe head until they were satisfied she was dead.

They changed out of their bloody clothes and hid the axe under some items in the laundry.

When police arrived and knocked on the door, the couple said there were no problems. When the police wanted to come inside, David Holl insisted on a search warrant but the police officer said he was invoking his powers under the Search and Surveillance Act.

The police found Ms Grace’s body in the bathroom and arrested the pair, the prosecutor said.

Ms Grace was found to have 35 wounds and injuries, some of which caused internal injuries to her heart and lung. Death would have happened rapidly. The head injuries would have left her unconscious.

The post mortem showed no chopping wounds by the blade of the axe. Injuries to her fingers were probably defensive injuries as she tried to protect herself from the blows.

David Holl declined to be interviewed after his arrest, but Janelle Holl made a full statement which provided the basis for the summary of facts.

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