Rena Joyce murder trial: Jury retire to consider verdict in case of woman who stabbed partner, buried body in backyard

The jury in the trial for a woman charged with murdering her partner and dumping his body in a compost heap at his Christchurch property has retired to deliberate their verdict.

This morning the jury of 11 – reduced from 12 after one of their numbers tested positive for Covid-19 – heard closing remarks from the Crown and defence.

Justice Jonathan Eaton then summed up the case and gave them directions about how they should deliberate before sending them to the jury room.

Rena Joyce, aka Maloney, is accused of murdering Martin Orme Berry, 55, at his Main North Rd home on or around December 29, 2020.

He was stabbed in the neck and back and his throat was cut.

The Crown alleged the attack only stopped when the blade of the knife Joyce was using lodged in Berry’s spine and broke away from the handle.

Berry’s body was then dragged from his home and buried in a compost heap, under rotting food, leaves and vegetation.

It is unclear whether he died in the house or while lying in the crude grave.

Berry’s remains were found two weeks after he died – when Joyce went to the police and confessed she had “manslaughtered” him.

She says the death was accidental and has pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder.

Last week the jury heard evidence from more than 30 witnesses – including the killer herself.

Earlier in the trial, the couple’s troubled relationship has been described by various family, friends, neighbours and others connected to them.

Joyce had a string of convictions for assaulting Berry and had spent time in prison as a result.

When he died, Berry had a protection order in place against Joyce.

The jury also heard details of the day Joyce handed herself to the police and watched an almost two-hour video of her “confession” interview with detectives.

Today the Crown and defence gave their final statements to the jury.

Murder, 'clear' and 'simple – the Crown's closing

Prosecutor Pip Currie said the Crown alleged Joyce “intentionally, in a fit of rage: deliberately stabbed Berry and “purposely cut his throat either intending to kill him or inflict bodily injury on him”.

“At the very least what can be proved is that she intended to cause bodily injury – there cannot be any doubt about that.

“She knew that bodily injury could cause death, and she carried on regardless, she ran that risk, she acted recklessly … that would still be murder.

“This case is not a case of … accidental manslaughter … this is not a case that this is unintentional.

“Put simply, the Crown says, this is a blatant and clear view of the defendant losing her rag in anger, she attacked her partner in a fit of rage, she stabbed him, she’s cut his throat.

“She wasn’t stabbing him in the arm or the leg or somewhere there wouldn’t be much danger.”

Currie said it was “completely far-fetched, nonsensical and ludicrous to suggest this was accidental”.

“This is not a situation where ‘oops I’ve just cut your throat’ or ‘oops I’ve just stabbed you, at least nine times …”

Currie reminded the jury that Joyce had subjected Berry to a number of violent assaults and had been convicted three times.

She said the violence “escalated” over time and Berry “paid the ultimate price of his life”.

Berry’s problems with alcohol were well traversed in court and when his family gave evidence they “did not shy away” from his long-time addiction.

It was also revealed he had a conviction for assaulting Joyce.

But in the relationship, the court heard Joyce was the main aggressor in the relationship – despite claiming the violence was “50/50” and Berry was “scared” of her and for his safety.

“The person being abused in this relationship was Martin Berry – not her,” said Currie.

“She was harbouring strong feelings of distaste, certainly hostility and anger towards Martin Berry.

“That’s how all this happened and came to a head -all that emotion … that’s in the context of how she cut his throat and stabbed him until she couldn’t stab him any longer.”

“It’s absolutely crazy to say this was something Martin Berry was involved in … very clearly she has admitted that on the night in question she lost it, that she was the one doing the stabbing and she couldn’t stop.”

Currie said Joyce had a motive for killing Berry.

“He was a no-good drunk, a druggy loser who ruined her life … that’s a pretty powerful indication of her state of mind,” she said.

“Those were the thoughts in her head when she killed him.

“She has unwittingly admitted murder when you break down and look at what she did admit to.”

It's manslaughter but not murder – the defence

Defence lawyer Richard Peters addressed the jury on behalf of Joyce.

He said Joyce was guilty of manslaughter – but not murder.

“It’s a very narrow issue here, the issue here is whether there was murderous intent,” he said.

He said Berry and Joyce were both geographically separated from their families and did not have a solid support system – and they were both addicted to alcohol.

“One of the features of their addiction issues is there were arguments … they were at times quite frequent,” Peters said.

“The relationship was marred with violence, you can accept that, it’s a given.

“There was violence both ways between the two of them and I don’t think that can be overlooked.

Peters urged the jury to focus on the day of the killing and what was going through Joyce’s mind at the time.

“It’s at the time of the infliction of the fatal injuries – what was going through her mind at that time,” he said.

“It’s the Crown’s job to prove she had intent at the time … that’s where you really need to focus.

“You’ve got to be sure … my submission is you can’t be sure … so the only appropriate verdict is one of manslaughter.”

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