In the late 1990s, the Fourth Reich, a Nazi skinhead gang, became a breeding ground for some of New Zealand's most vicious killers.
Malcolm George Chaston, 41, was right at its heart.
Yesterday in the High Court in Rangiora, Chaston received one of the harshest sentences in New Zealand history, a life sentence with a minimum non-parole period of 20 years for murder, and a sentence of preventive detention for two sexual crimes. For his surviving victims, the sentence will provide some relief. But for Vanessa Pickering's family it's far too late.
Chaston's criminal history is long and bloody.
At yesterday's sentencing, Justice French noted Chaston had a "sad and troubled" history. She said he was in and out of boys' homes and eventually ended up on the street.
His offending began 25 years ago and before he murdered Pickering he had 71 convictions, seven of a violent nature. He had used firearms and explosives, attacked prison guards and tried to escape prison.
We're not going to report any more details of Chaston's past offending lest we be accused of glorying in "crime porn". Let's just say that he has a horrific record of offending, especially against women.
It was offenders such as Chaston that Act's Three Strikes legislation was designed for; career criminals who offend with no consideration for their victims, or for the consequences of their offending. Had such a sentencing policy been in force when Chaston's offending began in the late 1980's, he would most certainly now be in prison for the term of his natural life. It is even possible that he may have already clocked up a third strike, and that his path and Vanessa Pickering's may never have had the chance to cross.
The sentence imposed on Chaston yesterday was severe, and he will not even be eligible for parole until 2030. Of course, under a sentence of preventive detention, it is possible that he may never be released from prison, which would make New Zealand a safer place. Despite the handwringing of the liberals who opposed Three Strikes, criminals such as Chaston are a reminder that there is a criminal underclass in New Zealand from which society requires protection.