Bradley Max Rawlinson has been jailed for 36 years for the "calculated and brutal" murder of his estranged girlfriend, Wollongong lawyer Katherine Foreman.
Supreme Court judge Justice Ian Harrison found Rawlinson had been the "principal and driving force" behind the plot to murder Ms Foreman, who perished in a deliberately lit fire at her Corrimal home in the early hours of October 27, 2011.
In handing down the judgment in Sydney on Monday morning, Justice Harrison said Rawlinson had not expressed "one breath of regret" over his role in Ms Foreman's death and continued to maintain his innocence despite the overwhelming evidence against him.
Rawlinson's secret lover and partner in crime, Ms Foreman's one-time friend Wendy Anne Evans, was sentenced to 24 years' jail, with a minimum of 18 years behind bars.
Evans was responsible for recruiting a third person, Michelle Sharon Proud, to help plan the attack. Proud arranged for a man, who cannot be named, to carry out the gruesome killing alongside Evans in exchange for $3000.
Proud was sentenced to 20 years' jail, with a non-parole period of 14 years.
In sentencing the trio, Justice Harrison found Rawlinson was the driving force behind the murder plot, saying he had recruited Evans by playing on her intense dislike of Ms Foreman and her growing affections for him as the two embarked on their secret affair. Justice Harrison said Rawlinson had managed to convince Evans that the pair could not be together as long as Ms Foreman was alive.
"She was the victim of undue influence and manipulation by Rawlinson," Justice Harrison said. "It's highly probable that Evans wouldn't have become involved [in Ms Foreman's death] if Rawlinson hadn't have [manipulated] her. I'm satisfied Evans's participation came about [as the result of] significant influence asserted upon her by Rawlinson [due to] the web of lies and deceit he spun."
Despite that, Justice Harrison said Evans's role in the crime was objectively very serious, involving the premeditated purchase of items to start the fire, and ultimately, carrying out the deed.
The court heard Evans, along with the man recruited by Proud, crept into Ms Foreman's house in the middle of the night and poured petrol around her bed while she slept. Evans admitted to lighting a piece of petrol-soaked cloth but claimed she threw it towards the en suite bathroom, not Ms Foreman's bed.
It failed to ignite the petrol on the floor, prompting the man to pick up the cloth and throw it towards the bed, agreed facts before the court said.
"The deceased was confined within an inferno that exploded in the quiet of the night in the home where she lived," Justice Harrison said in describing what happened next.
"It is difficult to contemplate ... a more excruciating or frightening way to die."
Justice Harrison found, given the location and intensity of the fire, that Evans had intended to kill Ms Foreman when she entered her home that night, saying the solicitor had been left with no way of escaping.
Meantime, he rejected suggestions peddled by Rawlinson's lawyers during the trial that their client had only wanted Ms Foreman "hurt", not killed, noting text messages between Rawlinson and Evans in the weeks leading up to the fire and then after it, clearly spelt out Rawlinson's sinister intentions. He also labelled as "lies and fantasy" Rawlinson's claims his motivation for the murder plot was borne out of both Ms Foreman and Evans threatening harm to himself and members of his family.
In sentencing Proud, Justice Harrison said although she had been a "willing and enthusiastic contributor" to the plot - arranging for the man to hurt Ms Foreman in exchange for payment - it was her "ignorance and naivety" that got her into that position, rather than any criminal intention.
Rawlinson was sentenced to a non-parole period of 27 years. With time already served, he will be eligible for release in 2038; Evans in 2029; and Proud in 2025.