Janet Moses died from 'accidental drowning'

Last updated 17:51 12/08/2010

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Young Wainuiomata woman Janet Moses died as a result of accidental drowning by way of manslaughter, Wellington regional coroner Ian Smith has found.

Ms Moses died during an attempted exorcism, and Mr Smith recommended whanau instead consult experts when they suspected a makutu or curse had been placed on a family member.

His finding came almost a year after five members of the 22-year-old woman's family were sentenced for their parts in her death, on October 12, 2007, in the Lower Hutt suburb.

An uncle and four aunts were convicted of the manslaughter of Ms Moses, whom they believed was cursed.

In the High Court at Wellington on August 14 last year, Justice Simon France made it a condition of their community-based sentences that all five whanau members undertake tikanga Maori or similar cultural programmes.

At the end of a six-week trial John Tahana Rawiri, 50, and his sisters Glenys Lynette Wright, 53, Aroha Gwendoline Wharepapa, 49, Angela Orupe, 47, and Tanginoa Apanui, 43, were found guilty of drowning Ms Moses in a bizarre effort to rid her of what they believed to be a makutu or curse.

They had attempted over several days to flush the demons out with water.

Rawiri and Wright, acknowledged as family leaders, were subject to harsher penalty, with both sentenced to six months' community detention and a daily curfew. In addition they had to do 300 hours community work and 12 months' supervision.

Wharepapa and Apanui were also handed down a year's supervision and 300 hours community work, while Orupe was to serve 150 hours community work and undergo supervision for six months.

In his finding, Mr Smith quoted extensively from Justice France's sentencing remarks, which described the events in a small flat which culminated in the death of Ms Moses.

Mr Smith said that it was in his view inappropriate to make a recommendation that encompassed sufficient directive action to a body or an organisation.

"But what can be stated is that tohunga or kaumatua should be consulted by whanau where makutu is suspected so that the whanau receive the correct expert advice as to how to deal with a situation, as such advice will be tempered by ensuring what is to be carried out by such exorcism remains within the laws of New Zealand as set down by Parliament," he said.

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