Family tells of mother’s loss at murder sentencing

With tears and powerful words, a family told of the loss of Alicia Maree Nathan as her young killer was jailed for at least 10 years as part of a murder life sentence.

Many of those in court – including Katrina Roma Epiha, who stabbed Miss Nathan to death – were crying as Justice Gerald Nation’s sentencing session went ahead in the High Court at Christchurch.

The incident took place after an argument over loud music during a party at a house in Avonhead in August 2017.

Crown prosecutor Mitch McClenaghan described the murder as “a senseless impulsive act of extreme violence with fatal consequences when Miss Epiha became enraged over a frivolous incident”.

Family members described Miss Nathan – the mother of a three-year-old at the time of her death – as a good-hearted woman who was a “happy, out-going, and caring mother”.

One family member told the court: “Her death has taken a toll and it seems to be going on forever.”

Miss Nathan’s father, Paul Robinson, said the “senseless crime, over music” had caused confusion, misery, and sadness for her young son, but he would not let it define the child’s future.

He said: “You may have taken Alicia from us, but you will never take our mana, our aroha, and our memories”.

The family held a framed picture of Miss Nathan in court.

Epiha pleaded guilty to murder in March, shortly before her trial was due to begin. She also admitted threatening to kill another woman she chased at the party, soon after the stabbing.

Defence counsel Simon Shamy said the killing had been “an impulsive act, driven by her long and very unfortunate history and the impact of alcohol”. Epiha’s remorse was genuine and real. “This woman is obviously going to carry the consequences of this for the rest of her life.”

Justice Nation commended Miss Nathan’s family members for the victim impact statements they had read out in court, or provided for the sentencing. He hoped that sometime in the future they might agree to meet Epiha at a restorative justice session.

Justice Nation said the killing had taken away a mother for whom her three-year-old boy was the centre of her life.

It must have been very difficult for the family to make their statements, but they had “said things which were very important for Miss Epiha to hear”.

He also spoke of Epiha’s own history which led to a pattern of violent responses to minor provocation, according to psychiatric reports.

At the time of the murder, she was aged 18. She had been born and raised in a gang environment, where she suffered extensive and repeated violence and neglect. She was in Child, Youth, and Family care from the age of seven.

She had been using drugs and alcohol from the age of six. She had “a well established history of physical, psychological, and other trauma and neglect from her early childhood”, the judge said.

He noted she had one positive role model in her life – an uncle who had been in a gang for many years but had left the gang and turned his life around. “You are going to have to follow that example,” the judge told her.

He jailed her for life with a non-parole term of 10 years before the Parole Board can consider her for release. He also read her a first strike warning.

Epiha was in tears again as the sentencing ended. As she was led out to begin her life sentence, family members called out, “Kia kaha,” and “Love you.”