Christchurch, NZ man admits murdering wife and neighbour and having sex with bodies

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A man in Christchurch, New Zealand has pleaded guilty to murdering his wife and a neighbour in his home. Jason Somerville said he killed them out of anger and admitted having sex with their bodies after strangling them. Local press has dubbed the case the House of Horrors.

Christchurch, New Zealand viewed from the Port Hills
Image: P Stalder.

Somerville, 33, killed Tisha Lowry, 28, on September 25, 2008. Lowry had been walking to her home just two doors from Somerville where she lived with her grandfather. A statement of fact released today said that the victim arrived at Somerville's sometime between 10.50am and 12.30pm. Somerville, who was alone in the house, let his neighbour in when she knocked, Lowry having visited the Somervilles before.

Inside the house a fight developed, with Somerville grabbing Lowry around the throat with both hands and strangled her. Lowry fought back, kicking and punching, but Somerville tightened his grip until Lowry went limp. He then held on for some time before releasing his hold, blocking up her throat with a pair of his wife's underwear. He then removed her jeans and underwear and had sex with the body.

Somerville took Lowry's body to the cupboard beneath his stairs before rushing out to a meeting scheduled early that afternoon. An hour later he returned, removed a manhole under the stairs and left the body half-naked in a space below the house, which he then cleaned before his wife came home. When his wife, Rebecca Chamberlain, got home at 3:00 she was clueless as in to what had just occured in her home.

Rebecca Chamberlain left home the following day for a meeting that Somerville knew would keep her occupied for some time. The summary statement of fact stated that Somerville returned to Lowry's corpse, removed such clothes as were still on it and "again sexually violated her body by having sexual intercourse with her." After this he buried her beneath the house in a shallow grave.

By September 28 Lowry had been reported missing and police questioned her killer on October 5, 2008 during routine enquiries. Somerville stated that he and Chamberlain often saw Lowry on the bus and that a month earlier she had knocked at their door looking for another person. He went on to state that he let her in and they talked about estate agents as he had been looking to sell up at the time. She then walked through the house and after initially assuming she was going to the toilet Somerville alleged he found Lowry rifling through the wardrobe, and asked her to leave. Lowry's family would go on to make repeated TV appeals for information on her whereabouts.

Chamberlain was murdered after her husband woke up at 9.30 am on August 30, 2009 and made sexual advances. After she repeatedly refused him, he went downstairs and made himself a coffee before returning to the bedroom to try again. Chamberlain was killed after she again refused to comply; he strangled her in a headlock until her pulse stopped, then squeezed her arteries before again stuffing underwear down her throat. Then he had sex with her.

When he was done, he dragged the corpse down the stair and through the manhole, before burying her in the sand beside Lowry. At 2:15 Christchurch police received a call from Somerville stating that his wife had not returned home after setting out for church at 10:30. Police spoke with him and he said he felt the fact she left her keys was out of character. Her handbag, cellphone and bank cards were also left, and he stated she was a recovering alcoholic with a history of self-harm who was on antidepressants. He said that none of his wife's friends and family knew anything when he inquired on her whereabouts.

On September 2 police contacted him and he stated there was no sign of his wife. The day after he went to his local police station to report that he had found his wife's glasses and wedding ring had been posted through his letterbox overnight. However, upon questioning he admitted the killings. Police then searched his house and found the bodies.

Somerville was remanded in custody until sentencing after today's proceedings at the Christchurch District Court. He is to be sentenced before the High Court on November 27, at which point the court will refer to psychiatric reports, a pre-sentence report and victim impact statements from Somerville's children. The children are in the care of families affiliated with the Taupo Baptist Church, which the family had attended for four years. Minister Keith Harrington said his congregation had prayed for Somerville to plead guilty if he was, adding that he was pleased the killer had avoided a traumatic trial both for the sake of the victims' families and Somerville's own wellbeing.

Somerville's house, variously reported as being on Hampshire Street and Wainoni Road, has faced two attempts to burn it down, and the council is currently in a controversial attempt to buy it from its current owners. Neighbours wish to see it converted into a facility for the community.