Daniel Holdom given two life sentences
The man who murdered mother Karlie Pearce-Stevenson and her daughter Khandalyce has been sentenced to life behind bars.
Daniel James Holdom, 44, crossed his arms and showed little emotion while his victims' family clapped in the NSW Supreme Court on Friday as he was sentenced for the heinous double murder.
Justice Robert Allan Hulme described the crimes as "despicable", being of "extreme gravity, depravity" and falling within the worst category of murder.
Outside court, Ms Pearce-Stevenson's father and stepfather said in a statement no sentence would ever bring closure.
"He murdered a young mother and her child," victims advocate Michael O'Connell said on behalf of the family.
"He stole their whole lives from them, and from us.
"We live daily without Karlie and Khandalyce and will do for the rest of our lives.
"His brutality will haunt us forever."
Ms Pearce-Stevenson's remains were found in the Belanglo State Forest in August, 2010.
She had cracked ribs and police long suspected she was murdered but she wasn't identified until five years later in a remarkable breakthrough.
In July, 2015, Khandalyce's skeleton was found inside a suitcase dumped on the side of the Karoonda Highway in Wynarka in South Australia.
There was duct tape wrapped around the toddler's skull and dishcloths in her mouth.
A tip-off to Crime Stoppers helped identify the little girl three months later and eventually led police to identify Ms Pearce-Stevenson.
The bodies were found five years apart and in different states but police discovered the mother and child were both killed in December, 2008 and their bodies dumped 1100 kilometres apart.
Holdom, who dated Ms Pearce-Stevenson for a short time in late 2008, was identified as the killer and charged over the murders in 2015.
He was already doing time in jail for sexually assaulting an eight-year-old in a caravan park on the NSW Central Coast.
Holdom initially denied any involvement in the murders but phone records put him in Belanglo State Forest hours after Karlie was last seen alive.
Photographs that Holdom took were also found years after the murder showing Ms Pearce Stevenson's lifeless body.
Mr Hulme said Holdom showed a complete disdain for Ms Pearce-Stevenson's existence as a human being and compounded the dignity she suffered by taking trophy photos.
"She was physically separated from her child alone in an isolated location in the forest with a man she trusted and had romantic feelings for," he told the court.
Holdom also stole the young mother's identity documents to steal money from her bank account and commit fraud in her name after she was dead.
Disturbingly, her mobile phone was also used to provide false assurances to her family in Alice Springs that the mother and child were safe and well.
The court had previously heard Holdom was in the grips of drug addiction after causing a car crash that killed his ex-girlfriend's two children in South Australia in September, 2008.
He told that same ex-girlfriend, who he went back to after the murders, that he stood on Ms Pearce-Stevenson's throat, crushed her windpipe and left her body next to a log.
While he told his relatives he was taking Khandalyce back to her grandmother in South Australia in December, 2008, he later confessed to a psychologist her mother's absence would have raised suspicion.
Khandalyce was killed in Narrandera in southwest NSW before her body was put in a suitcase and dumped.
The sentence almost stalled on Friday when Holdom decided he wanted to withdraw his guilty plea for the murder of Khandalyce.
He only told his legal team a few minutes ahead of court starting.
However Justice Hulme rejected the application and said Holdom had ample time to reflect on his pleas after entering them four months ago.
Mr Hulme reflected on Holdom's abusive upbringing in his sentence but noted the "inconsistencies" between the recollections he had provided to psychologists over the years.
"He is clearly a man capable of deceiving others when it suits his purpose," he said.
Mr Hulme sentenced Holdom to life imprisonment for both murders.
STATEMENT ON BEHALF OF KARLIE AND KHANDALYCE'S NEXT-OF-KIN
There are some things I would like to say for Karlie's and Khandalyce's next of kin.
Today is an important milestone on the heartbreaking and daunting journey on which we were thrust due to Daniel Holdom's despicable crimes. We would like to thank the NSW Department of Justice for fighting for justice for Karlie, Khandaylce and us.
We feared justice for our loved ones would never be attained but Department of Justice staff did not give up. They could not have done more to make amends for what has happened. They have restored our faith in the system, which we worried might not hold Daniel Holdom accountable.
On the sentence, it is the court's job to determine - that is why we have courts. It is for the Director of Public Prosecutions to determine if the sentence is adequate or should be appealed.
No sentence will ever bring closure. He murdered a young mother and her child. He stole their whole lives from them, and from us.
We live daily without Karlie and Khandalyce and will do for the rest of our lives. His brutality will haunt us forever. Nothing done to him will bring Karlie and Khandalyce back or repay the toll on us.
Such said, he has forfeited his right to his existence. From now until he dies, young women and children must be protected - their safety must be paramount.
We do not want another family to suffer as we have.
We sincerely thank the South Australia and New South Wales detectives for their persistence and their thoroughness, as well as their compassion. We can make this statement today because of their dedicated commitment.
In South Australia Detective Sergeant Paul Ward and his team and in New South Wales Detective Sergeant Darryn Gunn and his team deserve recognition.
Words seem too little for the gratefulness we have for them. We appreciate all they have done, above and beyond.
As a family, we want to acknowledge the generosity of the South Australia Commissioner for Victims' Rights (former and current).
We also thank Assistant Commissioner for Victims' Rights Sarah Fletcher for her assistance and ongoing support, even coming from South Australia to court to be there with our family and friends.
Debbie Gibson, a South Australia Police Victim Contact Officer is The Spirit Lifter. She is a remarkable person. We might not have coped had it not been for her tireless commitment and support to us and our family. She never let us down. Like Ms Fletcher, she came to court to comfort our family. Thank you, Debbie - we will never forget you.
We would also thank our family and friends for their support and especially for their tolerance through these last 3 years.
Thank you, as well past employers, for their compassion and assistance.
And, we add our gratitude to the Community, Town Council and friends of Alice Springs.
We extend special thanks to several people.
First and foremost, among these is my resilient partner. Her thoughtfulness and warmth were instrumental as I grappled to cope with the crushing realities of Karlie's and Khandalyce's deaths. When things got messy, she was there. She offered comfort in tearful moments and on sleepless nights.
Next, Michael O'Connell, the former Commissioner, who treated us decently but most important he ensured Karlie and Khandalyce were returned to us with respect and dignity. He gave us a voice, as we struggled to keep our privacy. His compassionate support for us and our friends (whenever we needed it) has been unwavering throughout, and he continues to do so.
Further, we say thank you to the new acquaintances we have made these past 3 years. Cheers to all of you.
Michael O'Connell told us stories of the impact of Khadalyce's death had on people across Australia. He made us aware of the public's grief. Such sensitivity was welcome comfort.
The best we can say to the mums and dads, grandparents, brothers and sisters and kinfolk, 'Hold your loved ones close and hold them tight and never stop hugging them.'
We can no longer hold and hug Karlie and Khandalyce, but we will never stop loving them.