'He is a monster': Māmā finally grieves as daughter's killer jailed

By Contributor

Jasmine Wilson's mother Brenda O'Shea and her husband Robert at a remembrance vigil in Whanganui during September 2019. Photo / Bevan Conley

By Leighton Keith, Open Justice multimedia journalist, Whanganui

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT

One thousand, one hundred and forty-two days ago Brenda O'Shea had to make the toughest decision any parent could face - turning off the machines keeping her daughter alive.

And yet it is only now that she's finally able to begin the grieving process.

Zane Paora Wallace, the man who brutally bashed and tortured O'Shea's eldest child Jasmine Tamara Wilson was yesterday sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum non-parole period of 15 years and six months by Justice Francis Cooke in the High Court at Whanganui.

Wallace pleaded guilty to murdering the bright, bubbly 30-year-old on July 25, 2022, the day his trial was supposed to begin after the legal process dragged on for more than three years.

The critically injured mother-of-two was dumped unconscious at Whanganui Hospital's Emergency Department on July 31, 2019. She had suffered serious head injuries and was later transferred to Wellington Hospital for specialist treatment but died on August 2.

"I haven't had a chance [to grieve]," O'Shea, of Te Atihaunui-a-Paparangi, Tuwharetoa, Ngati Rongomai and Tainui, told Open Justice.

"We have had to hold it, until we knew exactly what happened and unfortunately I haven't known. There was still so much I needed to find out, about what the police knew about the last months of my daughter's life."

Wilson was the eldest of O'Shea's five daughters and her ashes remain at the family home in Putiki, Whanganui. Her father Chris has another two daughters.

Not knowing tormented mother

While O'Shea was well aware of the horrific injuries her daughter had suffered she didn't know the exact details of how the injuries were inflicted, which proved the hardest part while waiting for the case to proceed through the court.

"I guess I needed that finality. I think part of it is that I talked to myself with what I think might have gone on, when I didn't even know.

"I spent my days torturing myself, oh did this happen? Did he strangle her then? Or, [for] how long? How many times?"

Wilson, known as Jazz or Jazzy, had studied hairdressing in Auckland, becoming a colour specialist, and was described as an incredible friend and loving mother by a close friend Jess Tutaki.

"She was more than a friend, she was like a sister, my family always accepted her as one our own," Tutaki says.

"She was bright and funny, you'd hear her laughing a mile away, she was strong, reliable and always stood beside us when we needed someone. She was caring and selfless and put everyone before herself."

Threats and violence results in death

Wilson first crossed paths with Wallace when they were teenagers. It's claimed they were in a relationship for the final nine months of her life but O'Shea says she knew nothing about it.

During a 2021 trial the Crown contended Wilson's death was the culmination of nine months of threats and violence from Wallace, a Hells Angels gang prospect.

"He had told her over and over again that he wanted to kill her, that he wanted to do terribly violent things to her," Crown prosecutor Chris Wilkinson-Smith told the jury.

In recorded phone calls from prison Wallace made repeated threats of violence, including beating her head in, slitting her throat, kicking her head in and splattering her brains on the pavement.

During the prolonged assault which eventually followed he hit her in the face causing internal bleeding, opened up cuts in her mouth and beat her around the body. She suffered broken ribs and brain bleeds.

Wallace pleaded guilty to charges of inflicting the final fatal injuries which resulted in Wilson being taken to hospital but continued to deny it was murder.

Death marks call to action

Wilson's killing was one of five homicide investigations launched by police into the deaths of Māori women in Whanganui during 2019 and it struck a chord with the community and spurred the organisation of remembrance vigils.

It also galvanised O'Shea's resolve to bring New Zealand's appalling domestic violence record out of the shadows and into the light by beginning Justice 4 Jazz.

Police statistics show between 2007 and 2018, 17 per cent of homicide victims were killed by their partner and 75 per cent of the victims killed were women.

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of family and intimate-partner violence in the world and it's estimated 80 per cent still goes unreported - something O'Shea is now on a crusade to change.

"It then took on a life of its own and grew outside of me," she says.

"It soon became Justice for Aroha, Justice for Feona [other victims]. It started to take on a life of its own across the country and we started to see a lot of vigils."

There's a long way to go and with no simple solution O'Shea is quick to point out it's not a problem the Government can solve on its own.

"I think it's the tip of the iceberg, I think it's a place to start. We need to start somewhere because there are changes that need to happen in this country.

"It is a social issue at the grassroots level and it's society who needs to have the courage to take a stand to fix the issues, not the Government. They come in at the bottom of the cliff.

"We as a society must do better and protect our people."

Detective Senior Sergeant Phil Taylor, the officer in charge of investigating Wilson's murder, says at the time the tragedy brought Whanganui together to hīkoi for change.

"I sincerely hope that this sentencing is a reminder to keep that sentiment foremost in our minds."

Whanganui Police continued to work with Tupoho Iwi to build confidence within the community to report and reduce family harm along with the seriousness of offending and re-victimisation.

"We have seen an increase in the confidence of victims to speak out and a community that is less tolerant of family violence and more prepared to call for help, giving police and our partner agencies a greater opportunity to reduce and prevent harm," Taylor says.

He urged anyone facing violence in their home to contact police.

Facing death and catching the culprit

Wilson's body was dumped at the hospital in a plan conceived and executed by Wallace's family including his mother Leeann Wallace, sister Stevie-Lee Wallace and father Steven Wallace who discovered her battered and beaten on July 31.

The trio were all later convicted of perverting the course of justice, Leeann and Steven were sentenced to 200 hours' community work each with Steven also receiving six months supervision while Stevie-Lee was sentenced to three months' community detention.

O'Shea says seeing her child's broken body lying in the hospital bed was a nightmare.

"She had a raccoon mask made of blood for eyes and a monitor sticking out of her forehead. She had multiple brain bleeds and we were always going to be pushing shit up hill to save her."

While some hospital staff tried to present an optimistic front as Wilson was transferred to Wellington Hospital, O'Shea was under no illusions.

"I knew she wouldn't be alright, I could see with my own eyes she was in dire straights."

Days later, on August 2, 2019, O'Shea made the gut-wrenching decision to turn off the life support and watched her daughter die, despite knowing a parent should never have to bury their child.

"It's for me to go first. Now I will always be the old lady that still has to live with the loss of her child every day."

Wallace, who initially had name suppression, was arrested 24 days after Wilson died but wasn't charged with her murder until October.

The legal process then dragged out for three years, the consideration of new medical evidence forced Wallace's trial in 2021 to be abandoned, delays caused by Covid and as Wallace admitted some charges but continued to deny others, including murder, right up until the day his retrial was scheduled to start.

"It's like you got kicked in the teeth over and over again with every court case, when you knew he was guilty."

He is a monster

O'Shea says she despised Wallace and labelled him a coward for not taking responsibility for his actions sooner.

"I have never hated anyone in my life but I hate him because he could have let us do this [grieve] a long time ago.

"He knew he was guilty and he could have saved everybody from this.

"He is a monster, he is not human. There is no way any human would have done that damage to my daughter."

In contrast, she had absolute admiration for the police who investigated the case and the Crown prosecutors who held Wilson's killer to account.

"I have got nothing but praise for all of them and the other 75 officers who helped over a four and a half month period."

Facing the future without fear

While Wilson was known as a very strong individual, who was not scared to speak out about injustices she witnessed, she fell into the category of women too afraid to speak up.

"That this has happened to her shows it can happen to anybody. She just felt she couldn't [speak out] and it has killed her and I think that she knew it was coming," O'Shea says.

"I didn't believe that she wouldn't even acknowledge it, even when it has become obvious to her family, she has not admitted it to anyone, even those very close to her.

"He had her in a corner and he meant to keep her there, until he killed her."

O'Shea believes everyone has a responsibility and the power to try and stop domestic violence.

"If you are the person who hears it, you need to be actually doing something, not sitting back and saying it's not my problem or it doesn't fit the criteria.

"My baby was murdered with silence all around her."

Tutaki also urged anyone aware of domestic violence happening to speak up.

"Everyone is born with a sense of knowing right from wrong.

"Domestic violence and abuse has always been around, it was normalised by people many, many years ago by turning a blind eye, closing curtains or blinds and minding their own business, but it's not normal and we shouldn't have to live with it being considered normal."

Tutaki says abuse is abuse and it is always okay to ask for help as the more people who speak up the less it could be normalised.

"Jasmine didn't deserve to die that way, nor does any other woman or man."

Speak out, go find help

While O'Shea believes society should be based on rehabilitation rather than punishment, she knows there are those who can't be changed.

She believes Wallace falls into that category.

"I don't believe that he has got anything to give back to society. I would like him to stay in there forever and never come out."

To maintain the integrity of the case O'Shea had to stay silent until after Wallace was found guilty or admitted his guilt but she now wants to use her voice to instigate change to reduce future fatalities.

She says the first step was having the courage to take a stand against the abuse and telling someone what was happening.

"Speak out, go find help."

After Wilson's death O'Shea took over raising her two sons, who asked about their mother all the time.

While she was at her daughter's bedside in Wellington her husband Robert had to tell the boys what had happened to their mother.

"They are young men now. They were at the end of primary school when this happened and we are now into college.

"We have had to be honest but they know that I have photos of their mother [injured in hospital], they know that I won't share these because those shouldn't be seen as the last image that they have of their mum."

Wilson would be buried at the urupā at her home on what would have been her 35th birthday, to enable the whānau the traditional Māori custom of 12 months to grieve.

O'Shea says Wilson's death had impacted the entire family, they still thought about her all the time.

"We all loved her so very much and she loved her boys and all of us with all of her heart."

FAMILY VIOLENCE

How to get help:

If you're in danger now:

• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours or friends to ring for you.

• Run outside and head for where there are other people. Scream for help so your neighbours can hear you.

• Take the children with you. Don't stop to get anything else.

• If you are being abused, remember it's not your fault. Violence is never okay.

Where to go for help or more information:

•Women's Refuge: Crisis line - 0800 REFUGE or 0800 733 843 (available 24/7)

•Shine: Helpline - 0508 744 633 (available 24/7)

•It's Not Ok: Family violence information line - 0800 456 450

•Shakti : Specialist services for African, Asian and Middle Eastern women and children.

•Crisis line - 0800 742 584 (available 24/7)

•Ministry of Justice : For information on family violence

•Te Kupenga Whakaoti Mahi Patunga : National Network of Family Violence Services

•White Ribbon : Aiming to eliminate men's violence towards women.