Coroner blames Chris Kahui for twins' deaths
KIRSTY JOHNSTON, VICTORIA ROBINSON, LANE NICHOLS AND MICHAEL FORBES
A coroner has implied that Chris Kahui killed his twin babies and then lied under oath to cover his actions.
The landmark report from coroner Garry Evans, which is at odds with Mr Kahui's 2008 acquittal for the murder of his sons Chris and Cru, raises an "interesting debate" about the meaning of a not guilty verdict and defendants' right to silence at trial, Mr Evans' boss, chief coroner Neil MacLean, says.
The findings would be looked at with great interest by coroners all over the world, Judge MacLean said.
"Implicit in this is a very serious allegation - ‘he did it'."
But despite the damning findings, it is unlikely Mr Kahui will ever be tried again for the twins' murders because of the protection he gets from "double jeopardy" laws.
Lesser charges remain an option, but police say they will not comment on that prospect until they have finished considering the evidence heard during the coroner's inquest.
In his 77-page report released today, Mr Evans is also scathing of the level of child abuse in New Zealand.
He recommends law changes to force health professionals to report suspected cases, removing fears around the Privacy Act that sometimes result in deaths.
Setting up child protection teams inside all district health boards would also identify at-risk children and lead to greater intervention, he says.
"It is little wonder that [health] providers err on the side of caution unless required to disclose by statute. If we expect their assistance, then clear requirements are needed, rather than a maze of discretion."
Mr Evans finds that Chris Kahui was alone with his three-month-old sons for at least three minutes on the day they suffered their fatal injuries in 2006.
"The [coroners] court is satisfied . . . that the traumatic brain injuries suffered by Chris and Cru Kahui were incurred by them . . . whilst they were in the sole custody, care and control of their father," he says.
His report also says: “The fact that there was a mixture of both old and fresh injuries affecting the twins is deeply disturbing and shows that the household environment in which they were being brought up was unsafe.”
The babies had been left alone with Mr Kahui, 21, by their mother, Macsyna King, on June 12, 2006, when she went to see her sister.
At Mr Kahui's trial, it was suggested that Ms King could have been the one who injured the twins, but Mr Evans concludes there is not “a skerrick of evidence” implicating her.
“Apart from being completely without evidential support, the theory is implausible,” he says.
He is critical of the way Mr Kahui conducted himself during the resulting police and coronial investigations, saying he formed a poor view of his credibility.
“The statements made by him to police that he had continued to feed the twins after the departures of his partner . . . were untrue, and untrue to his knowledge,” Mr Evans says.
“The court finds it likely that the false account given by Mr Kahui was to protect himself by representing that the twins remained well whilst in his hands.”
While Mr Kahui was required by law to give evidence at the coroner's inquest, he was not required to give evidence at his trial, and did not.
Judge MacLean pointed to that as a reason for the contradictory outcomes. "He [Mr Evans] had an advantage the criminal court didn't have - that Chris Kahui actually gave evidence."
The findings were due to be made public before Christmas, but Mr Kahui took legal action to force alterations. He dropped that challenge earlier this week.
His lawyer, Rodney Harrison, QC, said yesterday that Mr Kahui still “strongly disputes and is most dissatisfied with the outcome of the inquest".
He drew attention to a paragraph in Mr Evans' report that said: "Questions relating to criminal responsibility have already been tried out and disposed of . . . the question of how the twins came to meet their deaths is quite different to the question of whether Chris Kahui bears any responsibility in terms of the criminal law for their deaths."
Despite the damning findings from Mr Evans, Mr Kahui cannot be tried for murder again unless compelling new evidence is uncovered.
Auckland University law professor Warren Brookbanks said it would probably take a confession from Mr Kahui, as there was no "smoking gun" evidence to prove who killed the twins.
But perjury charges were a real possibility if police chose to investigate whether Mr Kahui lied under oath, he said.
Mr Kahui now lives with his partner, Marcia Ngapera-Kahui, with whom he has a daughter, aged 3. He is allowed to live with the girl but is never allowed to be alone with her. He and Ms Ngapera-Kahui met at the Faith Family Baptist Centre.
Responding to the coroner's decision, Justice Minister Judith Collins said whenever someone was killed, relatives, friends and the public would be ''shocked and appalled''.
She would not comment on whether Chris Kahui should be retried for the twins' murder.
''It's for the police to make their decision and not something I can pass judgement on or even have a comment on, other than they will make their own decision.''
There were specific circumstances in which retrials could be brought, Ms Collins said.
''There could be something like a miscarriage where someone has perverted the course of justice, in other words they have threatened somebody to give false evidence, or something like that.''
Prime Minister John Key said he would not pass judgement on the coroner's decision.
'' I think it very much speaks for itself.''
THE MAIN PLAYERS
Last year the 35-year-old, who has had six children, including the twins, reignited controversy around her role with a book, Breaking Silence: The Kahui Case, written by journalist Ian Wishart. Several book chains refused to stock it.
Ms King, now living in Gisborne, has since refused media comment.
In the book, she denied claims, made in the trial, that she had sex with Chris' father, William Banjo Kahui. She said Chris killed the babies: "Did I see the warning sign in him? Or did I see the signs that something was amiss? No, I didn't. Even now I'm struggling to see where I missed something."
Almost as quietly spoken as his son, Banjo was at the High Court murder trial every day, wearing the same blue suit given to him by police.
At the time the twins were born, 11 people were living in his Clendon house - himself, Chris Kahui, Macsyna, their son Shane, Banjo's daughter Mona, her partner Stuart King and their daughter Cyene, Banjo's younger children Eva, Elvis and William, and a nephew.
Banjo slept on a mattress on the floor of the lounge.
Younger sister of Chris and the partner of Macsyna King's half-brother, Stuart King. Their daughter, Cyene, was born one month before the twins.
At the time of the twins' deaths, Mona was attending a South Auckland school for teenage mothers to gain an educational qualification.
Cyene, as well as toddler Shane, was taken into CYF custody immediately after the twins' deaths and Mona was told she would not get Cyene back until someone confessed to the murders.
Half-brother to Macsyna, though they did not meet until they were adults.
He was the only person in the King-Kahui household with a job. Because his work as a labourer was weather-dependent, he was often home during the day and was left to care for his daughter, Cyene, as well as the twins.
But most of his time was spent in his bedroom playing his newly acquired PlayStation.
He made a point of staying out of Macsyna's business and did not interfere with her parenting.
He gave the court an unflattering description of his sister, saying: "She's outspoken, she can moan and swear like nobody's business; she'll just go and go and go."
Mona alleges Stuart "knows something" about what happened on the night of the twins' deaths, but says she has been threatened with a "bullet in the street" if he talks.
CHRIS AND CRU KAHUI
The two boys, born 10 weeks premature, died in June 2006.
They were buried together with Mona Hetaraka, their father's grandmother, who died in 1986, in a family plot at Mangere Cemetery. Although plastic flowers decorate the grave, a spider's web hangs over the babies' marker.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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