'Covert' confessions about volatile, violent relationship detailed at murder trial

Anna Leask, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 8 Mar 2022, 2:47pm
The alleged killer on the first day of her trial in the High Court at Christchurch. Photo / Peter Meecham
The alleged killer on the first day of her trial in the High Court at Christchurch. Photo / Peter Meecham

'Covert' confessions about volatile, violent relationship detailed at murder trial

Anna Leask, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 8 Mar 2022, 2:47pm

Murder accused Rena Joyce would chase and attack her partner Martin Berry with "anything that was available" on a "regular basis" and almost bit his nose off in one assault, his brother says. 

David Berry said his older brother would "walk the streets all night" to avoid going home and getting hurt and "didn't know how" to leave his abusive partner. 

"It was really bad," said David Berry. 

"I feared for his life – it was an incident away in my eyes." 

That incident came in December 2020 when Joyce allegedly murdered Berry, 55. 

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

She stabbed him repeatedly and cut his throat then buried his body in a compost heap in his own backyard. 

His remains were found two weeks later after Joyce walked into a Christchurch police station and told staff she had "manslaughtered" Berry and buried him in the garden. 

The 56-year-old is facing a charge of murder and is on trial in the High Court at Christchurch. 

She claims the attack was accidental and came after a heated argument with Berry where she "just snapped". 

This afternoon the court heard evidence from Berry's brother who gave a sombre insight into the relationship. 

The jury earlier heard that the fatal assault came after a string of attacks on Berry by Joyce. 

She had been sent to prison after one incident and at the time of his alleged murder Berry had a protection order against Joyce. 

"We implored him to get away," David Berry told the court. 

"He couldn't leave, he didn't know how to get away from her. 

"She just wouldn't leave and he didn't know what to do." 

He said Berry moved to Christchurch 20 years ago - initially to attend an alcohol rehab centre for an "on and off" drinking problem. 

Berry met Joyce in 2017 at a Christmas party. 

He was spending the holidays with his brother and went to the party with him. 

Joyce was a neighbour of the host and was also there. 

The pair started a relationship and eventually, she moved to Christchurch. 

Rena Maloney allegedly killed her partner and dumped him in a compost heap at his Christchurch property. Photo / Peter Meecham 

"Initially I think it was all lovey-dovey and then I think reasonably quickly it deteriorated into violence – drunken violence," David Berry said. 

"He would tell me that she'd attacked him and this became a regular occurrence…I went down there and stayed… and she attacked me one night, for no reason. 

"Pretty much whenever she got drunk it would degrade into violence… she nearly bit his nose off once, she smashed a chair over him, she beat him, she smashed the telephone and hid phones so he couldn't' ring. 

"Sometimes he said he'd lust leave and walk the streets all night… he couldn't go home for fear of further violence." 

David Berry said his brother called him "covertly" about what was going on. 

He had to call in secret because when Joyce "was always hovering" when he was able to use the phone 

"He was beaten up so bad once they called an ambulance," said David Berry. 

"I never saw the physical injuries… I took his word for it because he wasn't a liar. 

"She would throw things at him, she would chase him with household objects… she chased him with a knife several times. 

"I think she would use anything that was available." 

David Berry last saw his brother on December 29 2020 – just hours before the fatal attack. 

He was in Christchurch with his partner and took Berry and Joyce out for lunch at a local Indian restaurant. 

"He looked really good... I had no reason to think anything untoward would happen," he said. 

David Berry wanted to speak to his brother about his relationship and drinking but was not comfortable doing so in front of Joyce. 

He was shown images of the house taken by police after Berry's body was found and said it was very different to how he remembered on the day of the alleged murder. 

He had not spent long there that day but recalled knick-knacks and other items in the house that were not there in the police images. 

"It looked tidy and habited – which it doesn't in the photos," he said. 

David Berry said his brother was known to smoke marijuana and over the years had admitted he had grown "a couple of plants in his garden". 

But he was not aware of Berry having any major drug issues. 

"I don't think Rena liked drugs," he said. 

The trial, before Justice Jonathan Eaton and a jury, continues 


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