A New South Wales man who strangled his girlfriend and left her partially naked body on a river bank will spend more than 14 years in jail.
George Robert Ballantyne, 31, pleaded guilty to murdering mother-of-two Clare Weston, 23, and dumping her body near Maitland, north-west of Newcastle, in March last year.
The victim’s mother, Christine Weston, was in the Supreme Court in Newcastle as Justice Robert Hulme sentenced Ballantyne to 19 years’ jail with a non-parole period of 14 years and three months.
Outside court, Ms Weston fought back tears as she spoke of the daily “nightmare” she had lived with since the murder, and its effect on Clare’s young daughter and son.
“I don’t sleep at night, I have to listen to the children crying at night for their mum,” she said.
“I have to take them down to the cemetery on their birthdays. He’s taken away everybody’s life.
“Not only did he take her, he took away a chunk of all our lives.”
A couple walking their dogs discovered Clare Weston’s body on the banks of the Hunter River at Aberglasslyn, near the Melville Ford Bridge, on March 10.
Ballantyne later confessed he had “snapped and killed her” after they had an argument in his car.
“I grabbed hold of her around her body because she was trying to get out [of the car],” Ballantyne told a friend.
“She started biting me, and then I lost it … I choked her.”
Justice Hulme found the murder involved “significant violence over a period of time”.
“She was trying to get away from him but he somehow physically overcame her, carried her 200 metres to the riverside where he choked her to death,” the judge said.
He found Ballantyne probably also raped his victim, but said that had not been proven.
“He probably did have non-consensual intercourse but I do not think it adds anything to what is already a killing of significant seriousness and attended by a subsequent callous disregard of her dignity,” Justice Hulme said.
“The offender appears to be a person who is immature for his years and he has issues coping with relationships and anger management in their context.”
The judge also noted Ballantyne was “sad and regretful”, but not genuinely remorseful.
Ms Weston welcomed that finding.
“I’m just so glad to see that the judge didn’t fall for his act and say he was sorry because he’s obviously not,” she said.
“He wouldn’t have left her in such a disgraceful state if he was.
“He texted me all day saying he didn’t know where she was.
“They can’t tell me he’s sorry if he can lie to me a whole day, knowing what he’d done to her.
“He could do 100 years in jail but we have to learn to live without her.”
In 2008, Ballantyne was convicted of assaulting his girlfriend at the time after he threatened her with a knife and almost suffocated her with a pillow.