Jury returns with makutu trial verdicts

Janet Moses
Janet Moses

An uncle and four aunts of Janet Moses have been found guilty of drowning her in a ceremony to lift a curse.

The verdicts delivered in the High Court at Wellington at 10pm brought howls of anger and sorrow from a packed public gallery.

Convicted were John Rawiri, Glenys Wright, Angela Orupe, Aroha Wharepapa, and Tanginoa Apanui.

Three others were acquitted. They were Gaylene Kepa, her husband Alfred Kepa and Hall Wharepapa.

Two others whose names were suppressed were found not guilty of ill-treating a 14-year-old girl in their care.

Justice Simon France remanded the five found guilty on bail to be sentenced on August 14.

Earlier in the six week trial the judge had discharged John Rawiri’s wife, Georgina, due to lack of evidence on the manslaughter charge.

The jury of 11 - one woman left the jury in the first week of the trial for reasons that were suppressed - had begun considering its verdicts at about 11am on Thursday.

During the trial the Crown said Ms Moses, a 22-year-old mother of two, had drowned when her family undertook an intense and unprecedented ceremony to rid her of what they said was a makutu or curse.

They believed the curse stemmed from the angry spirit of a concrete lion statue Ms Moses’ younger sister and another woman had allegedly taken from the Greytown Hotel about two weeks before Ms Moses began behaving oddly.

Her grandmother, to whom she was especially close, had died on August 30, 2007, and not long before that Ms Moses had learned her partner had had an affair with one of Ms Moses extended family members.

The Crown called a psychiatrist to say she was showing signs of an emerging mental illness but the family believed it was a makutu.

Later still they said they believed that demons had possessed Ms Moses and other family members, and they attempted to cleanse or flush the evil spirits out with water.

The Dominion Post