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NZ: Rapist, murderer jailed 19 years (Auckland)

Publish Date: 07 Dec 2011
Source: Auckland Now
By: Charles Anderson

VICTIM: Jacqueline Blackbourn.

A man will spend at least 19 years in jail for raping, murdering and setting fire to his former partner, in a case that was deemed as brutal and serious as Clayton Weatherston's.

Steven Ellis, 30, was sentenced in the Auckland High Court this morning for raping and murdering his former girlfriend, 43-year-old English expatriate Jacqueline Blackbourn, in June 2010. His life sentence has a minimum non-parole period of 19 years.

Ellis had pleaded guilty to one charge of arson for setting a fire under Blackbourn's bed.

Crown prosecutor Steve Hazard said although the case was not as violent as that of Weatherston's, where he stabbed his girlfriend Sophie Elliot more than 200 times, there were extenuating circumstances in the rape before the murder and then setting her alight after it.

Judge Patricia Courtney agreed: "You could have stopped [after the rape], you didn't need to go on and commit the murder."

Outside court, a former girlfriend of Ellis said he had always been aggressive and friends had tried to help him with his problems but it never helped.

"He was a lunatic even then," said Louise O'Brien who dated Ellis while she was in secondary school and had also been flatmates with him for a time. Ellis had introduced her to Blackbourn.

"As soon as (the murder happened) I knew it was him. There was no doubt."

O'Brien said it was pleasing Ellis received the maximum non-parole sentencing.

"It was brutal. He set her on fire. There was nothing left of her."

The Crown's case was that Ellis refused to accept his two-year relationship with Blackbourn was over and he had been relentless in his attempts to get her back, texting her 700 times in two months.

He also turned to self-harm to get her attention and enlisted a friend to "champion" his cause.

The pair remained in contact after their early 2010 split, even engaging in consensual sex. However, Blackbourn had met someone new and told a mutual friend that she wanted to move on.

On June 26, 2010, after Blackbourn had ignored his texts, Ellis drove to her Glenfield house intending to kill her.

The Crown said he raped, strangled and stabbed his former girlfriend to death before setting her on fire to destroy any evidence of what he had done.

Ellis entered her home, forcing Blackbourn into bed before raping her and then stabbing her in the neck and torso. He then set a fire under her bed in an act that Ellis maintained was an attempted suicide.

Ellis testified that he had consensual sex with Blackbourn and she had been accidentally stabbed when they later had a fight and she came at him with a knife.

Judge Courtney refused to believe Ellis' account of the night saying it was "fake" and "implausible".

"Yours was a truly appalling crime committed against an unusually vulnerable woman," Judge Courtney said.

Blackbourn had suffered sexual abuse as a child and would have been terrified of the rape Ellis subjected her to, she said. The burning of her body had been particularly difficult for Blackbourn's family who were still in Britain.

Judge Courtney also sentenced Ellis to eight years for rape and four and a half years for arson to be served concurrently. She also ordered him to pay almost $74,000 for burning down Blackbourn's landlord's house.

Copyright © 2011 Fairfax New Zealand Limited