Ashburton WINZ double-murderer Russell John Tully was called “an evil man” as his sentencing got under way in the High Court at Christchurch today.
WINZ worker Leigh-Ann Hydes read her victim impact statement and told Tully he was an evil man with an overrated sense of self-importance, who had decided the staff were responsible for his position.
He was a game player, she told the crowded court. “He is an extremely clever man who has manipulated us and the justice system.”
She hoped he would never be able to walk “in any community again”, she said.
Tully was being sentenced in the courtroom where he was convicted at the end of a three week trial in February and March of the shotgun murders of WINZ receptionist Peggy Turuhira Noble and case worker Susan Leigh Cleveland.
He was also convicted of the attempted murder of Kim Elizabeth Adams, another staff member he fired at with the shotgun but missed as she escaped out a back door to the offices.
He was convicted of unlawful possession of two shotguns after the police manhunt located him hiding in a hedge near Ashburton on the day of the killings in September 2014.
Tully was present for only a few days of his trial, because he twice disrupted proceedings by continuously shouting down the judge and preventing any progress being made.
He was on a hunger strike during the first part of the trial, but returned to court when he began eating again and stayed calmly in the trial during its last stages, and during the announcement of the jury’s verdicts.
The hearing began today with a session in chambers with lawyers and 49-year-old Tully, and then began in open court with the reading of victim impact statements by five people.
Leigh-Ann Hydes said she had been been badly affected by the gruesome scene at the WINZ offices, while she sat on the floor tending to a wounded colleague. She spoke of overwhelming relief when police arrived and there was someone there to help.
She had not known for more than hour whether two other woman colleagues had lived. The women in the office were all friends – a tight knit work family. She was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The sentencing is continuing.