A New Zealand man was sentenced yesterday to 24 years in prison for committing the first murder on Norfolk Island since the tiny South Pacific outpost was settled by descendants of the HMS Bounty mutineers 151 years ago.
In a Sydney court hearing televised live to the island's court house 1,900km away, former chef Glenn McNeill, 29, was sentenced to 24 years in prison, with a minimum of 18 years to be served behind bars, for the brutal murder of 28-year-old hotel manager Janelle Patton in 2002.
The discovery of Patton's battered body shocked the island's tight-knit population of 1,600 and triggered a four-year police investigation that finally ended with McNeill's arrest on DNA evidence in New Zealand last year.
McNeill denied the murder but was convicted by a Norfolk Island Supreme Court jury in March.
Australian Federal Court judge Mark Weinberg, who was appointed the island's chief justice to hear the case, passed sentence yesterday.
He said McNeill could be released after 18 years if he agreed not to commit a criminal offense for another six years and paid a US$4,400 bond.
With no jail on the island, an Australian territory, McNeill will serve his sentence in an Australian prison.
McNeill's lawyer, John Brown, described the sentence as "a disappointment," and foreshadowed appeals against both the conviction and severity of the punishment.
Norfolk Island was settled in 1856 by 194 descendants of the HMS Bounty mutineers after Pitcairn Island, their first sanctuary, grew too crowded.
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