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Record sentence for RSA murders

Published: 6:01PM Thursday February 13, 2003

The man convicted of the RSA triple murders has been locked away for at least 33 years, with no hope of parole.

And prosecutors hope William Dwane Bell will never get out after murdering three people at an Auckland RSA.

The 25-year-old was convicted of the murder of Wayne Johnson, Mary Hobson and Bill Absolum and the attempted murder of Susan Couch at the Mt Wellington-Panmure RSA after going on an all-night drink and drugs spree.

Crown prosecutor Simon Moore said Bell had indicated that he has preferred P - pure methamphetamine - and that he was smoking very heavily in the weeks prior to committing the offences.

"He told me he was smoking several bongs of P every day," said Moore.

Bell was also jailed for 25 years for the attempted murder and robbery of Couch, who will suffer from the bashing for the rest of her life.

Couch issued a statement saying she hopes the sentences help deter others who might have evil intentions but she says it is a "hollow sort of victory" as the damage has been done and can never be undone.

Dozens of RSA members were at the High Court in Auckland to see the man who killed their friends receive a sentence that was five years longer than any other non-parole period handed down in a New Zealand court. He will be at least 58 years old before he will have the opportunity to be free again.

Justice Judith Potter told the High Court in Auckland that Bell showed a callous indifference for what he had done and absolutely no remorse. Potter described Bell as a cold-blooded and ruthless killer and said the families of the victims will never overcome the trauma of the killings.

"His own explanation in evidence was that it was only the money that counted. It perhaps best summarises his attitude to his victims," Potter said.

The murders occurred on December 8, 2001, when Bell, wielding a shotgun, and his accomplice Darnell Tupe, 24, attempted to rob the clubrooms of cash takings from the previous evening.

Bell persuaded Couch, 37, to open the door before beating her almost to death.

During the robbery, Bell shot dead club member Wayne Johnson, 56, and beat to death club president William Absolum, 63, and cleaner Mary Hobson, 44.

Moore told the court that Bell used particular cruelty in committing systematic execution-style killings. He said Bell used cold blooded violence that was gratuitous and unnecessary.

Moore said the injuries were horrific and extreme and Bell showed no remorse. He also told the court Bell had a long criminal record and was likely to offend again.

By the time he stood trial for the multiple murders at the age of 24, Bell had accumulated a record of 102 offences - many of them very serious. The list included aggravated robbery, assault, firearms charges, impersonating police, burglary and car theft.

"There are no mitigating features for Mr Bell," said Moore.

Bell's accomplice Darnell Tupe, 24, was found guilty of three counts of manslaughter and one of aggravated robbery but was found not guilty of attempted murder. Tupe was sentenced to 12 years with a minimum non-parole period of seven years.

Justice Minister Phil Goff welcomed Bell's 33 year sentence and says it shows the courts are carrying out the wishes of parliament, which last year passed new sentencing laws.

However, National's justice spokesman Tony Ryall still wants answers about the way probation officers and the police dealt with Bell, who was on parole before the killings.

And United Future spokesman Marc Alexander says sentences are starting to match up to the enormity of the crime, but life should still mean life and Bell should be left to die in prison.

Outside the court, Johnson's brother was advocating an alternative sentence.

"He should be shot and thrown on the tip," Earl Johnson said.

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