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NZ woman convicted in car hood murder

world Updated: Mar 04, 2009 09:10 IST

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A woman in New Zealand has been sentenced to life in prison for the murder of her former partner in a deliberate head-on crash as he clung to the hood of her car. A jury in the northern city of New Plymouth took six hours to decide late on Tuesday that Cindy Fairburn had committed murder in 2007 when she drove her car head-on into a truck while her former partner, Darin Maxwell, 42, clung to the hood.

Fairburn's lawyer, Susan Hughes, argued that her client acted in self-defense and had expected a verdict of manslaughter. Hughes said on Wednesday that her client would likely launch an appeal. Prosecutor Cherie Clarke told the High Court in New Plymouth that Fairburn, 38, had suspected Maxwell of molesting their 2-year-old daughter. An examination of the toddler found no sign of sex abuse. Fairburn had reported the matter to police but when advised that Maxwell would not be arrested immediately, she told police he should not be allowed to get away with wrongdoing.

Prosecutors said it was unclear why Maxwell was on the hood, but that he clung to the bonnet of Fairburn's car as she drove eight miles (13 kilometers) along a highway in August 2007. They said she deliberately drove her car into the path of a sports-utility vehicle, flinging Maxwell from the bonnet and through the windscreen of the other vehicle. He died from extensive injuries. The other vehicle's driver suffered serious injuries but survived.

Fairburn herself spent 15 weeks in the hospital and caught an infection that resulted in the amputation of one leg. Justice Rhys Harrison sentenced Fairburn to the mandatory life term with a non-parole period of 10 years.