WARNING: Graphic content

A man who stabbed and bludgeoned a Dunedin couple to death then set fire to their home will be locked up for at least 17 years.

Wiremu Paul Namana, 50, appeared in the High Court at Dunedin this afternoon where he was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murders of David Ian Clarke, 49, and 35-year-old Anastasia Margaret Neve in January 2018.

Justice Gerald Nation called it “the needless murder of two people whose lives ended in horrible circumstances” and said the defendant had not explained why he did it.

The judge said the statements from the victims’ families showed the “intense shock, grief and lingering sorrow” caused.

Neve’s sister Krysta describing an overwhelming sense of “terror” when she discovered her sister had been murdered.

“I thought of the many ways she could have suffered before her final breath,” she said.

“She didn’t deserve to die, and she didn’t deserve to die in the way she did.”

Another sister, Megan, spoke of her sadness that her new child had been robbed of getting to know her aunty.

She said she would remember Neve as “an amazing artist with incredible handwriting” and a lover of poetry and music.

After repeated denials, the defendant finally admitted the double-murder-arson in June this year and with it a summary which detailed the brutal killings.

Namana at the time was addicted to morphine and his drug debts were spread so widely he was struggling to find a supplier.

His life was in free-fall, the court heard.

Hours before the murder he had complained to a mate about withdrawal symptoms kicking in; he broke up with his long-term partner and then he visited Clarke, desperate for help.

They visited two addresses seeking drugs but Namana got nothing.

The defendant repeatedly called Neve’s phone without success, then took matters into his own hands.

When he got to the couple’s Wesley St flat in South Dunedin he “flew into a rage”, court documents said.

Using a cricket bat, knife and a mini sledgehammer, he attacked the couple, inflicting devastating injuries.

Neve sustained 14 stab wounds as well as blunt-force fractures to her head.

Clarke was left similarly savaged, with extensive facial fractures and knife wounds, including one which penetrated his brain.

Within hours, Namana was back at the house. He emptied a five-litre petrol can in the victims’ bedroom and set it alight.

Police found the defendant’s clothing in the backyard and his boots on a neighbouring property.

Over the ensuing days, a bizarre and confusing series of interviews between Namana and police unfolded.

Initially, he denied any knowledge of what had happened, but later admitted being in the house afterwards.

Crown prosecutor Craig Power said Namana had an “uncontrollable anger” and noted both victims were much smaller than the defendant.

“When he attacked them they had no chance,” he said.

Defence counsel Judith Ablett-Kerr, QC, outlined her client’s background which involved significant trauma, compounded by the use of alcohol and drugs from the age of 10.

She described it as “a genuinely dreadful existence” from being a toddler, and told the court he set fire to school classrooms when he was 7, sparking the intervention of social services.

Ablett-Kerr argued that her client was remorseful, which she said was backed up by clinicians’ reports.

Namana knew the pain of loss, she said, when his sister died in March while he was behind bars.

The killer, whose most recent convictions came for assaulting a woman in 2009, was assessed as a high risk of further serious violent offending.

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