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Tully sentenced to life in jail

Newstalk ZB staff ,
Publish Date
Friday, 27 May 2016, 11:15a.m.
Russell Tully in the High Court in Christchurch to be sentenced for the Ashburton WINZ murders (Dean Kozanic).

Work and Income double-killer Russell John Tully has been sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 27 years.

It is the second highest non-parole period ever handed down in New Zealand history.

LISTEN ABOVE: Newstalk ZB reporter Jessica McCarthy joins Larry Williams to discuss the sentencing

Tully was found guilty in March of being the masked gunman who stormed the Ashburton Winz centre on September 1, 2014 and shot dead receptionist Peggy Noble, 67, from point blank range and three times shot case manager Susan Leigh Cleveland, 55, as she pleaded for her life.

The 50-year-old was also found guilty of attempting to murder case manager Kim Adams. He was found not guilty of attempting to murder case manager Lindy Curtis who was shot in the leg and badly injured hiding under a desk.

Today in the High Court at Christchurch, Ashburton Winz survivors told how they had since been treated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Kim Adams, who felt "whoosh" past her face from a solid lead bullet Tully aimed at her, along with colleagues Jane Hayman Walker and Leigh-Ann Hydes, all say they now suffer from PTSD and anxiety, brought on by the horrific scenes they witnessed on that fateful day.

Ms Hydes recalls it "as if it was yesterday", and for days and weeks couldn't sleep, she said in a harrowing victim impact statement she read out at Tully's sentencing in the High Court at Christchurch today.

After the shooting, she was too scared to close her eyes, as all she would picture was Ms Noble, Ms Cleveland, and tending to the shot Ms Curtis' horrific leg wound with a tea towel.

The deaths were heartbreaking for the "wonderful tight-knit family" where they were more friends than colleagues, Ms Hydes said.

The stress of September 1, 2014 resulted in her undergoing psychiatrist counselling, where she was diagnosed with PTSD.

She described Tully as an "evil man", whose clever "game-playing and antics" had manipulated the victims, the justice system, and court for his own means.

Colleague Jane Hayman Walker, who managed to flee the building, said she thought she was going to die that day, and that her children would lose their mother.

The shooting fallout has affected her family, relationship and health. After never before having suffered from mental health issues, she is also now dealing with the symptoms of PTSD and anxiety.

Ms Adams is "thankful to be alive".

The shooting still haunts her and has changed her life, she said.

She still struggles with the fact that if she didn't run out a back door that day, or if she'd moved too slow, or if Tully had used a different shotgun pellet, her children would now be orphaned.

She wonders how she can continue to do a job she's loved for 19 years.

Ms Adams has been diagnosed with PTSD and suffers from anxiety attacks. She is afraid to go to places alone, and is nervous in crowds.

"I'll never forget the day the person I tried to help tried to end my life," Ms Adams said.

Krystal Bishop said Ms Noble was the matriarch of their small family.

"Peg has always been a rock for us," she said.

She added that "everyone has the right to go to work and return home safely".

Ministry of Social Development deputy chief executive Carl Crafar read a statement outside court on behalf of chief executive Brendan Boyle who couldn't attend today.

"We hope today's sentencing provides some closure for Peg and Leigh's families and loved ones," he said.

"The families have endured much pain since September 1, 2014, and this is a small step towards their recovery. Our thoughts are all with them.

"It's also significant for Ashburton staff and other victims including staff from the whole of the Ministry of Social Development and the public sector in general.

"Our staff have endured much and today's sentencing will also help them as they continue to move on from that day but never forgetting their lost colleagues and friends."

The victims spoke of the "emotional roller coaster" they went through every time the trial was delayed.

Tully's executions of Ms Noble and Ms Cleveland were "callous, cold-blooded and calculated", said Crown prosecutor Andrew McRae, who suggested the starting point for Tully's sentence was a jail term of at least 33 years.

In the 61 seconds he spent inside the building, Tully moved "purposefully, methodically", only targeting Winz staff, despite a number of civilians being in the office that day.

He went to the Winz office that day, specifically wanting to kill as many staff members that he could, Mr McRae said.

That aspect elevated it beyond the case of William Bell who was sentenced to 33 years, reduced to 30 years on appeal, for murdering three people at Mt Wellington-Panmure Returned Services Association in 2001.

Double killer Graeme Burton was sentenced to 26 years of non-parole after pleading guilty to all 11 charges arising from his rampage on Wainuiomata Hill in 2007, which left quad biker Karl Kuchenbecker dead and four injured. He was on parole at the time for murdering nightclub lighting technician Paul Anderson in Wellington in 1992.

Bruce Thomas Howse was sentenced to 28 years non-parole, reduced to 25 years on appeal, for the murders of his stepdaughters Saliel Aplin and Olympia Jetson in their Masterton sleepout on December 4, 2001.

Tully was found to be mentally capable of facing charges of double-murder and attempted murder after a hearing under the Criminal Procedure (Mentally Impaired Persons) Act 2003 in the High Court at Christchurch last year.

Mr McRae said that while Tully had showed traits of anti-social personality disorder and narcissism, it was not sufficient to classify him as having a disorder.

Amicus James Rapley, who assisted the court during the trial where Tully was not legally represented, believed that qualified for a minimum imprisonment period of 17 years or more.

A prison term of 23-25 years was a more appropriate starting point than 33 years, Mr Rapley argued.

While Tully was found fit to stand trial, Mr Rapley said some mental health issues must have been at play, because "no normal person would react in that way".

Tully say quietly for most of the sentencing.

However, when Mr McRae was outlining the resentment Tully had harboured towards Winz staff, and the strong sense of entitlement he held, Tully interjected, "Objection, your honour".

Justice Cameron Mander told him to be quiet, and that he'd have an opportunity to speak later.

Speaking from the dock, Tully said he wanted to "refrain from saying too much" until appeals were heard.

However, he alleged a "major cover-up by the Crown" regarding disclosure and evidence, and further claimed he didn't have access to a lawyer.

Tully sacked at least six defence counsel.

He said he wasn't in the "correct frame of mind at the time" and that he "clearly suffers" from a mental disorder.

"If I was guilty and went out and killed two people, I'd take it, and say, 'That was me'. But obviously that was not the case and I refute the accusation," Tully said.

Tully enjoyed a normal upbringing in Ashburton, before leaving school for an apprenticeship, the court heard.

He had been married for a time, but reacted badly when the relationship ended, abusing drugs and alcohol for years.

Tully then moved to Australia where he worked as a diesel mechanic.

But he never settled, the court heard, and sometimes left jobs after altercations.

The judge said Tully had been estranged from his family for many years.

When he returned to New Zealand in 2012, he went on "somewhat of a downward spiral", the court heard.

He had a preoccupation with his skin, which he self diagnosed as being a deadly condition.

Tully began using methamphetamine, cannabis and synthetic cannabinoids, and was at times a heavy drinker, the judge said.

There was nothing random about his actions, Justice Mander said.

Tully had been suffering from a sense of grievance at being unfairly treated by Winz staff over the preceding months.

After being trespassed from the Cass St office, he set about a plan to deliberately target Winz employees.

Tully, who has previous convictions for threatening to kill and presenting a firearm, went there with an intention to kill them, the judge said.

Justice Mander said he had no doubt that if staff hadn't fled the building, or if staff weren't fortunately absent that morning, there would likely have been more fatalities.

They were "cold-blooded executions", particularly callous and brutal, he said.

"This type of crime is rare in New Zealand," Justice Mander said.

Justice Mander said Tully was a "very dangerous person" who was very capable of extremely violent actions.

He held a high risk of harm, which meant that there is a need for the community to be protected.

For those reasons, he sentenced Tully to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 27 years.

Tully will be aged 77 before he can be considered for parole.

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