Macdonald may be free by Christmas

By Laura McQuillan, NZ Newswire Updated September 14, 2012, 4:06 pm

Ewen Macdonald, the man cleared of murdering Manawatu farmer Scott Guy, could be freed from prison before Christmas despite being jailed for five years for other offences on Friday.

Macdonald was sentenced to five years' in prison when he appeared in the High Court at Palmerston North on six charges he pleaded guilty to early last year.

They include setting fire to the Guy family's old house in 2008 and vandalising Mr Guy's new home in 2009.

He also admitted poaching stags, killing 19 calves with a hammer, destroying 16,000 litres of milk and burning down a historic duck shooters' hut - crimes that all took place on three nearby farms.

Macdonald was cleared in July of murdering his brother-in-law Mr Guy after a trial at the High Court in Wellington. Mr Guy was shot dead in July 2010 in the driveway of his Feilding home.

Macdonald, 32, has been in custody since his arrest on April 7 last year, and has spent 17 months in prison.

Under Justice Ministry guidelines, he will be eligible for parole after serving 20 months' imprisonment which is December 7.

Macdonald's co-accused, Callum Boe, was jailed for two years in September last year but released after nine months.

Sentencing Macdonald, Justice Simon France imposed cumulative sentences of three years' imprisonment for the arson of the Guy house, plus two years for the arson of the hut, as those were the two most serious offences.

He will serve sentences for the other charges concurrently.

Justice France described Macdonald's offending against the Guy family as "targeted and cruel" acts motivated "by the desire to hurt".

The arson at the Guy family farm had caused $650,000 damage to trailers the old house was sitting on, but Macdonald was unable to pay reparation to their owners and insurance company.

Justice France noted that, while Macdonald was now estranged from his wife, Mr Guy's sister Anna, he had the support of his family, who had written to the court acknowledging he had done wrong.

Macdonald had also written a letter expressing remorse, which Justice France said was the "most contentious issue" before the court.

Defence counsel Greg King said Macdonald had realised the error of his ways and taken "genuine and profound steps" to "change the person he had become" before his arrest, including joining the board of trustees at his children's school and attending a personal growth course.

However, Justice France said he did not accept Macdonald was remorseful, having viewed the taped police interview with Macdonald where he denied the offending until confronted with Boe's admission.

"I saw and heard no signs of remorse. Indeed, if anything, there were statements consistent only with continuing indifference," Justice France said.

Members of Macdonald's family were in court to support him, but they declined to comment to media, as did the murder investigation head Detective Inspector Sue Schwalger.

In a statement, Mr Guy's family said the sentence brings them no closure.

Mr Guy's father, Bryan, said his family were rebuilding their lives, without any interaction with Macdonald.

"He has lost our trust and has hurt us deeply and shaken the values which our family hold dear," he said.

"However the turmoil we have been through has brought our immediate family closer together, and it is our future that we now focus on."

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