'He's by the birdbath': Murder-accused's confession interview played to jury

Anna Leask, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 10 Mar 2022, 8:38pm
Rena Maloney allegedly killed her partner and dumped him in a compost heap at his Christchurch property. Photo / Peter Meecham
Rena Maloney allegedly killed her partner and dumped him in a compost heap at his Christchurch property. Photo / Peter Meecham

'He's by the birdbath': Murder-accused's confession interview played to jury

Anna Leask, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 10 Mar 2022, 8:38pm


"He's by the birdbath. Please go get him." 

This is what Rena Joyce, 56, told police moments after she confessed to killing her partner Martin Berry and burying him in a compost heap at their Christchurch home. 

"He's in the garden, I put him there, it's hard going doing that on your own," she said. 

"I remember seeing red, and that was it. And once I'd done it, it was too late. His neck was cut. I was covered in blood, just covered in it from head to toe, just dripping in it." 

Joyce is on trial in the High Court at Christchurch for Berry's murder and today the jury heard what she told police after handing herself in two weeks after the grisly killing. 

Joyce is accused of murdering Berry, 55, at his Main North Rd home on or around December 29, 2020. 

He was stabbed in the neck and back and his throat was cut. 

The Crown alleged the attack only stopped when the blade of the knife Joyce was using lodged in Berry's spine and broke away from the handle. 

Rena Joyce aka Moloney is on trial in the High Court at Christchurch for allegedly murdering her partner Martin Berry in 2021. Photo / Pool 

Berry's body was then dragged from his home and buried in a compost heap, under rotting food, leaves and vegetation. 

It is unclear whether he died in the house or while lying in the crude grave. 

Berry's remains were found two weeks after he died – when Joyce went to the police and confessed she had "manslaughtered" him. 

She says the death was accidental and has pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder. 

The couple's troubled relationship has been described by various family, friends, neighbours and others connected to them this week. 

Joyce had a string of convictions for assaulting Berry and had spent time in prison as a result. 

When he died, Berry had a protection order in place against Joyce. 

'Aggressive and angry' woman demands court duty lawyer before confession 

On January 12 last year Joyce took a bus from the house where she was staying to the central city bus exchange.  

She walked about 200m to the justice precinct, which houses the city's courts and central police station, made her way to a District Court counter and asked to see a lawyer. 

The court staffer said Joyce was "very polite but very demanding" and said she was "tired and stressed". 

She told Joyce she could not see a court-appointed duty lawyer as she was not facing any charges. 

She said Joyce's demeanour changed immediately and she became aggressive and angry and was then agitated. 

Minutes later she walked to the front counter in the police station and spoke to Constable Brendan Riley. 

Joyce's confession 

Riley told the court she was "crying and hard to understand as she sobbed". 

"She asked to see a police officer as she wanted to confess something," Riley said. 

"She said she had 'accidentally manslaughtered' her partner and she wanted to confess." 

Joyce told the police her name and address and gave them Berry's details. 

She then said: "I can't stop thinking about it. I don't want to think about it. 

"I am going to prison for a very long time." 

Police at the scene of the alleged murder. Photo / Anna Leask 

Soon after, Joyce told Detective Shaun McClintock that she had killed Berry "a couple of days before New Year". 

She had been "covered in blood" but could recall exact details. 

"I can't remember exactly what happened, it all happened so fast. I didn't dig a grave, I just threw lots and lots of leaves on him. 

"The smell was horrendous; the smell of death." 

Police then interviewed Joyce for several hours. 

Officers found his body before the interview began. 

The confession of Rena Joyce 

"Have you found him yet? Have you got him out of there?" Joyce asks through sobs at the start of the interview recording, played to the court today. 

"I can't live with myself and what I've done. It's very bad. I feel sick." 

When McClintock explained her rights and her access to a lawyer she said: "It's too late. There's nothing I can do, I'll never get out of jail, I know that. I just wanted to get him out of the garden, that's all. 

"I don't lie, that's why I've come here today. You'll find out the truth anyway." 

Joyce said the night of the alleged murder the pair had "a massive fight". 

She said she had not been drinking – claiming she was 17 months sober and taking medication to stop her from being able to process alcohol. 

She told McClintock that Berry must have "spiked" her drink because she "just turned into a monster". 

"I just flipped – I couldn't help it anymore," she said. 

"None of it was intentional. It's just all f**ked up, it's just a mess." 

Joyce told police that Berry smoked marijuana every day – and grew it. 

Rena Joyce aka Moloney is charged with murdering her partner and dumping his body at his Christchurch property. Photo / Pool 

She said she has against drugs said if she knew he used them she would not have moved to Christchurch. 

Her brother, she said, died of a heroin overdose and she "didn't touch drugs" as a result. 

"He never told me he was a drug addict when I came here," she said. 

"He promised me the world. I was on the bones of my ass. He told me all of this when I got here. I would never have come here... He should have told me he was a loser before I got here. 

"I didn't want drugs in the house. He was always smoking it and he was growing it by the washing line. I was getting panicky because the plants were getting bigger and bigger." 

Joyce was "on probation" after an earlier assault on Berry and was worried about what would happen if drugs were found at her home. 

She said after she killed Berry, she ripped all the plants out and covered his body with them and "paraphernalia". 

Earlier in the trial police who found the body said that was not the case. 

He 'ruined my life' – Joyce's claims about her partner 

Joyce said she argued with Berry about his drug use just before she killed him. 

She said he was "jealous" that she was "clean" and he mocked her that day and said she "would never change". 

Joyce asked him if he was "going to be a loser all your life" and then it "all came to a head" and she grabbed a "huge" pot of cannabis from Berry and the fight escalated. 

"He cherished that Purple Haze, I snatched it off him, he smacked me around. I took it off him and he went mental and hit me," she said. 

"He went crazy, that's when it happened. He went absolutely crazy and that's when I was like 'he doesn't love me he doesn't care about me he loves drugs and that's what he wants to do for the rest of his life'. 

"I've never behaved like that. I just lost it. I was fine and then I was just covered in blood. It's like I had this super-strength from nowhere. It's like I was a different person. 

"I was just dripping in blood. I thought 'well it's too late now', I got him out of the house, I got rid of what I could in the wheelie bin." 

Joyce also claimed Berry was "cruel" to her – and her dog – and that he pushed, hit, mentally abused and belittled her. 

"It was like he was constantly manipulating me and mind-bending me." 

She and Berry met at a Christmas party in the North Island and not long after she agreed to move from Whanganui. 

She said she had a good job lined up as a chef in Wellington but turned it down for love. 

Rena Maloney appears in the Christchurch High Court charged with the murder of Martin Berry. Photo / Peter Meecham 

She said Berry's home was "creepy" and "like a house of horrors" and he "loved the drugs more than he loved me". 

She claimed she worked hard to stop drinking but Berry tried to sabotage it - even sneaking alcohol into her tea. 

Joyce said she wanted to leave Berry but had nowhere to go. 

She said she spent a few days after his death living in the back room of the house with her dog, then set it "free". When she knew it had been picked up and taken to the council pound she made her way to the police. 

The trial continues before Justice Jonathan Eaton. 


If you're in danger now: 

• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours of friends to ring for you.• Run outside and head for where there are other people.
• Scream for help so that your neighbours can hear you. 
• Take the children with you. 
• Don't stop to get anything else. 
• If you are being abused, remember it's not your fault. Violence is never okay 

Where to go for help or more information: 

• Shine, free national helpline 9am–11pm every day – 0508 744 633 www.2shine.org.nz
• Women's Refuge: Free national crisis line operates 24/7 – 0800 refuge or 0800 733 843 www.womensrefuge.org.nz
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and middle eastern women and their children. Crisis line 24/7 0800 742 584 
• It's Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450 www.areyouok.org.nz