Dome Valley case: Inside the horror of degrading and prolonged attack

In the dock L-R:  Michelle Blom, Nicola Jones, Julie-Ann Torrance, Cameron Hakeke and Wayne Blackett.
LAWRENCE SMITH/FAIRFAX NZ

In the dock L-R: Michelle Blom, Nicola Jones, Julie-Ann Torrance, Cameron Hakeke and Wayne Blackett.

WARNING: DISTRESSING CONTENT

Over two days at the High Court at Auckland a 20 year-old woman smiled uncomfortably as she detailed what she had been through.

She was abducted and stripped naked.

Her long hair was hacked off to her ears.

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Her finger was stomped on until it broke. She was beaten and shocked repeatedly with a Taser.

CHRIS McKEEN/Stuff.co.nz

Police search the Dome Valley scene where a woman was found beside the road in critical condition.

She was assaulted with a cricket bat and wicket. 

In a basement where she was kept for nearly a day she was sexually violated in such an inhumane way that the majority of news media chose not to publish the intimate details. 

Finally she was put in the boot of a car, then dumped and left to die on the side of a road after she was beaten around the head with a hammer. 

Throughout her evidence the victim smiled politely, laughing now and again at some of the clumsy questions she was asked by lawyers.  

It was only looking at photos of her injuries toward the end of her evidence that the tears began to stream down her cheeks. 

Her tormentors, the people who had callously inflicted all this pain on her, were mainly women. 

Women she had known well and trusted. 

At the end of the three-week court case two of the women who participated in the attack would be found guilty of her attempted murder, and one guilty of her sexual violation and all together, after months of differing court hearings, five will be sentenced for the degrading torture they subjected the teen to. 

The question that remained on everybody's lips: How could women do this to another woman? 

THE CASE 

The claw hammer the Crown said was used in the final attack against the victim.
SUPPLIED

The claw hammer the Crown said was used in the final attack against the victim.

Glen Eden mum Michelle Blom, sex worker Cameron Hakeke, nurse-to-be Nicola Jones, and Jones' long-time friend Julie-Ann Torrance were accused of varying roles in the abduction and attack of the then-19-year-old. 

Another defendant, Wayne Blackett, plead guilty to kidnapping and attempted murder, and a sixth person, Jaclyn Keates, also admitted charges of injuring with intent to injure, assault with a weapon, and kidnapping. 

Keates said she was so horrified by her own role in the methamphetamine-fuelled attack that she made a plea bargain with prosecutors in return for giving evidence against her co-offenders. 

The Dome Valley kidnapping trial of the group captured the public's attention if not for the brutal details of the assault on the victim, but for the fact it was led by a group of women against another. 

The reason? A dispute over a boyfriend. 

Nicola Jones, 10 years the victim's senior and someone the victim once called 'sis', had led the pack.

By the end of her ordeal, the teenager was nearly dead, left on the side of the road in oversized overalls, lying next to a pile of rubbish. 

Her rescuers thought she was a boy. 

WHAT DRIVES FEMALE VIOLENCE  

The victim was found cable-tied, dressed in overalls, lying on the side of the road in Dome Valley.
SUPPLIED

The victim was found cable-tied, dressed in overalls, lying on the side of the road in Dome Valley.

"Basically behind most girls' fights you will find there is an issue about a male involved," Dr Donna Swift says. 

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The Nelson-based anthropologist has been studying violence by women, against women, for years and is not particularly surprised at the details of the brutality meted out in this case. 

Or what triggered it.

Swift says many teenagers in their early years at high school engage in what she calls 'relational aggression'.

Rumour spreading. Online bullying. Taunting. 

For most of us, that's where it stops, Swift says. 

​"When girls are around 15-16 and at the end of school, they either give up on that behaviour or they become more sophisticated with it, or they take it to another level," Swift says. 

"When they perpetuate aggression on other girls, they often have other groups of people around them. I'm not surprised it's a group of women that would attack this young girl.

"Amongst girls there are unwritten rules, such as not sleeping with another girl's boyfriend. You don't step over the line and if you do you should have known better. That leads to retaliation." 

THEFT OF A BOYFRIEND 

The basement of the Glen Eden house where the victim was held captive for a day.
SUPPLIED

The basement of the Glen Eden house where the victim was held captive for a day.

"I'm going to kill her," the text to the victim's mother read. 

In January 2016, 29-year-old Nicola Jones was having a hard time. 

Her two children had been taken from her custody, both her parents were dead, and she had just discovered the father of her kids was apparently sleeping with a teenage girl she thought of as her sister. 

'Sis' they called each other.

Just like Jones called her best friend Julie-Ann Torrance 'mum'. 

Just like Michelle Blom called her flatmate 'wife'. 

The group's loyalty to one another was referenced throughout the trial; their monikers for each other representing the closest bond you could possibly have with another person - they were family. 

When Jones perceived a disloyalty, the wheels were set in motion for retribution. 

The girl she had known since she was three years-old had betrayed her and Jones set about telling everyone who would listen about how she'd been victimised. 

Nelson anthropologist Donna Swift says women who attack other women will often focus on areas of their body that are ...
SUPPLIED

Nelson anthropologist Donna Swift says women who attack other women will often focus on areas of their body that are subject to jealousy.

She told the girl's mother in a series of text messages. Threatening messages, promising she would get even.

She told her sex worker friend Cameron Hakeke - and Hakeke agreed he was annoyed with the victim too because she owed him rent. 

She told Julie-Ann Torrance - and Torrance alleged the teenager had stolen rings from her late daughter's grave.

Later, when Jaclyn Keates became involved, she joined in the violent melee after the allegations were repeated to her. 

She told jurors she didn't know why she joined in abusing the young woman who she'd never met - she just thought she should. 

Swift says where violence is directed at one woman by another it is common for a gaggle of girls to be involved in the victimisation, with women often "egging" each other on. 

"The rest would join in even though they might not want to because they have the 'I've got your back' mentality, and loyalty to one another," she says. 

Crown prosecutor Brian Dickey told jurors as he argued the police case: "Nicola Jones is driven by a hatred and she's high on meth. It's a perfect cocktail, you might think, for what happens next." 

ATTACK THE THING THAT MEANS THE MOST 

Police process the Dome Valley scene.
Chris McKeen

Police process the Dome Valley scene.

In May 2016, Jones enacted her final revenge. 

Jones spotted the victim on the side of the road, just off the red-light part of Auckland's K Rd, and pulled her into a car occupied by Torrance, Keates and Blom who brought her back to Blom's Glen Eden basement. 

There she was held captive for nearly a day. 

Giving evidence, Blom's flatmate Leesa Harris told the court that after the group had smoked drugs and drunk alcohol she had gone to bed none the wiser to what was happening downstairs. 

Blom was her best friend, she said. 

Blom's boyfriend arrived and was having a smoke outside when to his surprise he saw the violence going on in the basement. 

A naked girl was being beaten with various objects while a group all stood around smoking a bong and having a drink, watching. 

'Weirded out', the man left an hour later, without intervening. 

"It's interesting the loyalty of females to their male partners. Females will step into a male fight to help or protect them, whereas if females are in a fight, sometimes you get the males egging them on,"  Swift says.

"Males see it as a bit of a cat fight. They will be egging it on. Taking clips for You Tube (but) they certainly don't intervene. I think it goes back to, there's something erotic in the male view of female fighting."

This was no cat fight though - the Crown described it as an "inexplicably brutal" attack. 

Women are more likely to specifically attack areas of the body of their rival that they feel are of the most threat to them, Swift says. 

Dome Valley, and the roadside where the victim was left.
Chris McKeen

Dome Valley, and the roadside where the victim was left.

"When females go against females and they get to that level of physical violence they often (attack areas) that are associated with points of pride, like cutting off hair, doing something so their face is rubbed in the dirt, punches to their face." 

"They're attacking the things that make someone visually attractive, or something that is the most threatening aspect about them." 

During her time in the basement the 19-year-old was sexually violated with an object. 

"I would think there is a big message there, of trying to attack a part of the victim that they're most threatened by," Swift says. 

'PLAYING THE SHE-HERO'

Swift says bullying tendencies that most of us leave behind in our teenage years are more likely to prevail in adult women who have been exposed to violence through their life, or who lead unstable lives. 

"So girls that have been removed from their homes, or chosen to leave their homes. Girls that have become disconnected from school or employment," she says.

Michelle Blom, Nicola Jones and Julie-Ann Torrance in the dock.
Lawrence Smith/FAIRFAX NZ

Michelle Blom, Nicola Jones and Julie-Ann Torrance in the dock.

"Many of the girls I have worked with have violence in their backgrounds. That's how they learn their aggressive behaviour. In some cases violence becomes normal and it becomes how you deal with a challenge or a confrontation. 

"You also have to look at the media and the entertainment industry where kick ass girls are given quite a bit of acknowledgment. The girls who are tough, who can defend themselves, who can take somebody out, are held up as a hero, or 'shero' (she-hero) in our media." 

This might go some way to explaining the rationale of each of the defendants who boasted about the attack to friends, who later gave evidence in court. 

The location in Dome Valley where the critically injured victim was dumped..
Chris McKeen

The location in Dome Valley where the critically injured victim was dumped..

Michelle Blom told her boyfriend that her friends had put a woman in the boot of their car. 

Cameron Hakeke told his friend Paris that he had "Taser, Taser Taser-ed" the teenager. 

Nicola Jones told a friend about the entire kidnapping and even the attempted murder. 

Wayne Blackett bumped into his boss half way through the kidnapping and boldly told her that he had a girl in the boot of his car. She didn't believe him. 

THE VERDICTS

The group of five will be sentenced in April. 

Nicola Jones: Found guilty of threatening to kill, attempted murder, injuring with intent, and assault with a Taser. She was found not guilty of sexual violation. She earlier plead guilty to two charges of kidnapping, stealing a car, and three charges of assault with a weapon

Julie-Ann Torrance: Found guilty of assault with a weapon, sexual violation and attempted murder. She earlier plead guilty to two charges of assault with a weapon, kidnapping, and injuring with intent 

Cameron Hakeke: Found guilty of kidnapping and assault with a weapon. He was found not guilty of theft of a car and an additional charge of assault with a weapon 

Michelle Blom: Was found guilty of kidnapping and found not guilty of injuring with intent, two charges of assault with a weapon and sexual violation 

Wayne Blackett: Plead guilty to attempted murder and kidnapping. Charges of assault with a cricket wicket, assault with scissors and sexual violation were dismissed by Justice Whata. 

GIRLS BEHAVING BADLY 

* Last year Auckland woman Ofa Manitisa was jailed for more than three years after attacking her friend with a rock before purposely running her over with her car. Bystanders to the argument - in the middle of a North Shore street in broad daylight overheard one of the two women yelling, "You broke my heart!" 

* Stratford mother Tamara Miranda Poni went on a violent rampage, assaulting her former partner and his new love interest after she found out about their relationship. She hit, bit and threw items at the pair then hurled furniture and broke a window in what a judge described as a "fairly shocking piece of behaviour" driven by "blind rage". 

* Trainee teacher Kahurina Raukura Cassidy, 20, believed her victim was having an affair with her boyfriend when she beat a teenager and stomped on her head. Two other accomplices were involved in the attack, which was filmed and during which Cassidy told the 15-year-old: "Don't mess with my family." 

 

 - Stuff

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