A man from Tanna was sentenced to 17 years behind bars after he walked into a church at Anamburu and assaulted his wife with a steel hammer, following claims that she was having an affair with the pastor.

Johnson Namri, 44, was charged with one principal offence of Attempted Premeditated Intentional Homicide, contrary to sections 106 (1) (b) and 28 of the Penal Code as count 1; and two alternative offences of intentional assault as count 2 and threats to kill a person as count 3, contrary to sections 107 (b) and 115 of the Penal Code respectively.

Namri claimed that on March 26, 2017 before the church service one Sunday morning, he saw one of the church pastors walking past and whispering into the room where his wife was sleeping.

His wife was sleeping at the church premises, praying while he was looking after their six children at home.

Chief Justice Vincent Lunabek said Namri returned home at Blacksands that Sunday. After lunch, he took a steel hammer, hid it in his backpack and returned to the church premises where his wife stayed.

Namri pushed his head in the door of the room and went inside the room and sat on a chair near the door.

He asked the women inside the room if they knew who he was and they responded to him.

“You told your wife that you came to end her life,” Chief Justice Lunabek said.

“You pulled out the steel hammer from your bag and assaulted your wife on her head two or three times with it.

“You had motives for your acts to cause death of the complainant and you testified you saw one pastor whispered at the door of the room your wife was sleeping in.

“You said you knew the pastor was sleeping with your wife in that room at the church premises.”

Namri said that he was calm that Sunday afternoon and there were no spontaneous reactions or any reaction caused by a provocation that day.

But the reason that sent him into a rage was that some clothes allegedly belonging to the pastor were allegedly seen in that room, and his wife did not attend the service that day.

He alleged that he knew the pastor must have shared that room with his wife.

Namri said he didn’t see the duo sleep in the room but claimed that his daughter went into the room and claimed that it was not right because she found the pastor’s clothes inside the room.

He said he thought about killing his wife that afternoon.

Namri actually assaulted her with the steel hammer, leaving her with deep cuts on her head before she was rushed to Vila Central Hospital (VCH) for medical examination.

The judge said the premeditated design to kill existed which was a conscious decision to kill and the decision must be present in the mind at the time the act was committed.

Namri only stopped assaulting his wife after he realized that the pastors of the church and others were standing there and watching what was going on.

The Chief Justice said Namri entered a not guilty plea on attempted premeditated intentional homicide on September 12, 2017 and admitted the intentional assault charge and threats to kill.

On May 29, 2018 Namri was found guilty and convicted on the first count and was sentenced only on that count.

The other two counts were used as aggravating circumstances to count one.

Before the Chief Justice handed down the sentence he said that there are critical differences between premeditated intentional homicide and attempted premeditated intentional homicide.

He said that not only is the intended result not achieved but also for attempted premeditated intentional homicide.

“There must have been a premeditated intention to kill whereas a charge of premeditated intentional homicide may arise where the accused knew what he was doing would cause death or very serious harm,” he said.

“In a case of premeditated intentional homicide, a valuable human life is lost whereas in an attempt to commit the premeditated intentional homicide the unlawful act would not have resulted in even a slightest injury to the person targeted.”

Lunabek said that there was degree of planning with a choice of weapon and was coupled with a premeditated design to kill.

The court also took note of the victim’s vulnerability of the victim as a woman compared to the defendant as a man with more natural physical force, the fact he was a former boxer and the assault was carried out in front of other members of the church.

Chief Justice said in this case that the nature and seriousness of the offending reflected some physical or psychological harm which had occurred justifying level two of the Guidelines which is 15 years and the aggravating factors represent an addition of three-year terms of imprisonment.

“I accept that a term of 18 years is the appropriate starting point sentence for this offence including aggravating features,” he said.

“A period of 12 months will be allowed to recognize that you are a first-time offender and cooperate with the police during investigations.

“You have also already spent a period of one year and six months and 25 days in custody before you are tried and sentenced, this period will be taken into consideration in your favour”.

Namri was left with an end sentence of 17 years imprisonment that was backdated from March 31, 2017 when he was first taken into custody for remand.