Attributable to Detective Inspector Steve Wood:
Police acknowledge the sentencing today of former police officer, Ben McLean, at the High Court in Invercargill.
McLean pleaded guilty last week to a charge of murder and one of attempted murder. He was today sentenced to life imprisonment with a 17-year non-parole period.
The sentence reflects the gravity of McLean’s offending, which resulted in the death of Verity Barber and the serious injury of another person in April this year.
Our thoughts remain with Verity’s family who have suffered a devastating loss, and with the second victim who continues to recover from the incident.
This was a shocking event for both the victims and police staff who worked with McLean.
Our priority has been to ensure everyone affected by this tragedy continues to receive the necessary support.
I would like to commend the staff who were involved in the investigation for their professionalism during this difficult enquiry.
We know that this incident shocked the wider Invercargill community too, and I thank them again for the support they have shown to police.
We cannot recall a similar event involving a serving police officer in our recent history and can assure the public this was an isolated event.
Ben McLean left Police in May this year.
Statement written by Bob Barber, father of Verity Barber, and distributed by NZ Police on his behalf:
There are over 40 members of the McLean, Duggan and Barber families who are still trying to come to grips with this senseless tragedy.
We are all coping as best we can, and are dealing with it in our own ways.
I personally would like to express thanks to Southern District Commander Superintendent Paul Basham for the direct and compassionate manner in which he assisted me in the weeks after this terrible event.
A big thanks too to Detective Senior Sergeant Stu Harvey and his team for the painstaking work they did in bringing about a successful conclusion. It was not easy for them investigating one of their own.
I would also like to thank Victim Support and the court victim advisors for their assistance.
I have known Ben McLean for over 23 years and cannot comprehend how he could take Verity from us in such a callous and brutal way.
I said at Verity’s funeral that it was not a day for anger, blame or finger pointing, but a time for reconciliation, forgiveness and compassion.
Ben showed none of these attributes when he murdered Verity, and I am having great difficulty living up to them myself as we continue to deal with this tragedy.
Thankfully my faith is carrying me through this traumatic time.
We once again ask the media to respect our families’ privacy at this time.
Statement written by Garry Duggan and distributed by NZ Police on his behalf:
This morning the New Zealand judicial system sentenced Benjamin Peter McLean for the murder of my partner Verity (or ‘Bert’ as we all knew her) and my attempted murder.
The impact of this vengeful and vicious crime – upon myself and others – has been relayed, in part, in the High Court this morning.
But the one person who couldn’t speak…is the person who was the greatest victim – and that was Bert. Too often these crime cases are about the murderer, and not the victim – and that’s always unfair.
Bert was a loving, kind and compassionate woman and an outstanding mum. She tried to make her relationship with Ben McLean work, and she tried often – on behalf of her children.
When she had the chance for true happiness, for release, for a new life for herself and youngest son… Ben McLean decided that his hate, his anger and his perverted sense of wrong was more important than everyone else, incuding his Police oath, his community, his family and his children.
One day, Ben McLean will be released from prison and on that day, another grave injustice will have been created. He knew the potential consequences if he was convicted, but he also knew that, one day, he would walk free.
Bert will never walk free.
She wont enjoy her kids growing up, or the joy of being an older parent and grandparent, or the chance of a merry family Christmas, or the chance for genuine happiness. I’m only glad that in the short time that we were together, that there was a promise of that future in her life.
I ask today that we give more thought, more regard and more compassion to those that have been denied their lives by evil people.
The NZ justice system rarely punishes the evil amongst us, even as the legacy of them stains the lives of innocents for decades to come. This is just such a case.
I want to tell Bert – wherever she is. You will never be forgotten. You will always be loved. Until the end of time.
Issued by Police Media Centre