Coroner: Kahui lied to save himself
The Kahui twins met a violent death while in the sole care of their father Chris Kahui, who went on to lie repeatedly to protect himself from blame, a coroner has found.
Mr Kahui, who was found not guilty of the murder of sons Chris and Cru in a 2008 High Court trial, has rejected the findings outright and reaffirmed he denies any involvement in the untimely deaths of his babies.
A report released today by coroner Garry Evans finds that Mr Kahui was alone with the 3-month-olds for at least three minutes on the day they received their fatal injuries in 2006.
When a cousin discovered him in their nursery, one of the babies wasn't breathing and needed CPR. Both never cried or fed again.
The coroner's finding states: "The court is satisfied . . . to the required standard of proof, that the traumatic brain injuries suffered by Chris and Cru Kahui were incurred by them during the afternoon/early evening of 12 June 2006, whilst they were in the sole custody, care and control of their father at 22 Courtenay Crescent, Mangere, Auckland.”
Despite family wanting to take the babies to hospital after the incident, Mr Kahui refused. The babies finally made it to hospital more than 24 hours later, but never recovered. The cause of death was traumatic brain injury.
Mr Evans finds that, during the resulting police and coronial investigations, Mr Kahui repeatedly lied and changed his evidence.
“The evidence given by Chris Kahui was unreliable, conflicting and, on many occasions, untrue. The court [meaning Mr Evans] formed a poor view of his credibility.
“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.”
Despite the damning findings, it is unlikely Mr Kahui can ever be tried again for the twins' murder because of the "double jeopardy" laws preventing anyone being prosecuted a second time on a charge of which they have already been acquitted.
In a statement responding to the findings, Mr Kahui's lawyer drew attention to one paragraph in the 77-page report that said the Coroner's Court was concerned only with fact, and questions of criminal responsibility had been “tried out and disposed of".
Rodney Harrison, QC, pointed out the findings issued today "differ from the draft" due to be published before Christmas, after Mr Kahui fought a legal battle to force alterations.
His legal team also gained a prohibition on anyone searching the coroner's file, including the previous disputed draft, for 21 days.
In a statement issued by his lawyers, Mr Kahui said he still “strongly disputes and is most dissatisfied with the outcome of the inquest”, but would not be taking further legal action.
During the murder trial, the defence put forward three possible alternatives as to how the twins suffered their fatal injuries, including one theory that blamed their mother, Macsyna King. However, Mr Evans rejects them all.
He says there is not “a skerrick of evidence” that Ms King had a motive to kill her children or that she did so.
“Apart from being completely without evidential support, the theory is implausible.” Instead, he finds that the babies received their injuries on Monday, June 12, 2006, when they were alone with their father.
Their mother had left Mr Kahui, who was 21 at the time, to look after them and their older brother Shane, 13 months, while she visited her sister. Ms King fed the twins before she left.
About 8.40pm, Mr Kahui, his father William “Banjo” Kahui, his sister Mona Kahui and her partner Stuart King went outside for a smoke. Mr Kahui seemed “a bit angry, down, a bit pissed off that he couldn't go to the hospital . . . cos he had the twins and Shane to look after”, Mona Kahui later told a court.
Responding to cries from Shane, Mr Kahui went inside. He was alone with the twins in the nursery for at least three minutes, Mr Evans said.
Mona Kahui then walked into the room to find him cuddling baby Chris. She noticed Cru was not breathing and was turning pale, his lips purple. She ran to get Mr King.
Mr Evans' findings say: “The court comments that Mona Kahui's actions in running out of the room to get help underline the seriousness of what, to her, was a frightening event.”
Mr King later told the inquest: “[Cru's lips] were like a dark purple. They kept getting darker and darker. His body was so flimsy and limp you could tell [it] wasn't normal.”
Chris Kahui performed CPR on Cru and he began breathing again. However, nobody called an ambulance, with William Kahui and Mona Kahui leaving to try to find Macsyna King.
Mr Kahui, the coroner says, was unable to offer any explanation for not taking Cru to hospital.
“He said, however, that if a puppy in his care had stopped breathing, he would have taken it to a vet.”
The coroner says that, in wanting Ms King to return, Mr Kahui wanted her to face what he saw as her responsibility for what had happened to them in her absence.
“It is implicit in the view just stated, formed on the evidence before the court, that by then the twins had suffered the head injuries that led them to their deaths.”
Ms King could not be found that night. When she arrived home the next day, and found bruising on Cru's face, she became angry at Mr Kahui. He shouted at her: “Well, then you should have been here."
Mr Evans says it is reasonable to draw inference from that statement that something had happened while Ms King was away.
He again calls attention to Mr Kahui's unusual behaviour, saying his response to Ms King was not “what one would expect” from a father whose attention has been drawn to bruising on the face of one of his sons.
Around midday, the couple took the babies to McDonald's then to a doctor. Despite being told to go immediately to hospital, Mr Kahui did not want to, instead driving Ms King to the supermarket, before going for a walk “to cool down” once they got home.
Ms King took the babies to the hospital alone, where they were immediately admitted to intensive care. She tried to call Mr Kahui, but he refused to join her, instead continuing to play PlayStation with Stuart King.
“His behaviour,” Mr Evans says, “is consistent with a wish to avoid the hospital authorities.”
He finds that, when questioned about the events of June 12, Mr Kahui knowingly did not tell the truth about when the babies had their last feed, realising this was key in determining what time they were injured.
At one point he said he had fed the twins at 5pm, in keeping with their 6-hourly schedule. But none of the family members who gave evidence said they heard the babies cry on any occasion from the time Ms King left the house until they were taken to see a GP the following day.
“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.
He finds the boys' fatal injuries resulted from application of external force “at the hands of another or others”.
“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.”
Father of the twins
Found not guilty of killing the twins at trial in 2008, where he did not give evidence.
Coroner Garry Evans said his evidence given during the inquest was "significantly" different to the evidence he gave police.
There were discrepancies about feeding the twins and his evidence about being alone in the room with the twins before his sister came in and discovered Cru not breathing was also different.
During his third police interview, Mr Kahui said he was in the room alone for about 10 minutes, but later in the interview said it had been for only about three minutes.
Mr Evans was also critical of Mr Kahui's explanation to Ms King about how bruises had appeared on one of the twin's faces.
"The fact that fading bruising was seen by Macsyna King on the face of one of the twins on the day before a fresh bruise was seen on Chris's face, and that Chris Kahui should attempt to explain the cause of the bruising on each day by recourse to the same invention, is disturbing."
He described information withheld by Mr Kahui as "vitally important" and that Ms King was "materially misled" as to the health of the twins by Mr Kahui.
"Chris Kahui's behaviour in keeping these facts from others is incompatible with the behaviour one would reasonably expect from a normal father who had nothing to hide concerning his children's condition."
Mother of the twins
Mr Kahui's lawyer suggested the twin's injuries could have been inflicted by Ms King on the morning of June 13, or at about 7pm on June 12, when Mr Kahui was away from the house for about 20 minutes dropping his sister Mona off at Middlemore Hospital.
Mr Kahui suggested Ms King could have returned to the house during that period, injured the twins and then left again.
Mr Evans says neither possibility is "evidentially tenable" and he has rejected them both.
Ms King could not have inflicted the injuries on the morning of June 13 as it "flew in the face" of medical and expert evidence heard in the court.
Likewise, there was no evidence to support the suggestion that Ms King had returned to the house during the evening of June 12 when Mr Kahui was away.
"Apart from being completely without evidential support, the theory is implausible," Mr Evans says.
However, while he is satisfied that the whereabouts of Ms King, her sister and her sister's husband during the evening had nothing to do with the death of the twins, he noted that he had reservations as to the truth of Ms King's evidence.
The lack of recall of events until confronted with cellphone records raised doubts about whether the court had been told the truth as to the reasons for the various calls that were made by and to Mr Hepi, he says.
Mr Kahui's lawyer also put forward the possibility that the twins' injuries could have been inflicted by Mr King.
Mr Evans has rejected this idea outright, stating there is not a "scintilla of evidence" to support the allegation.
Mr Kahui's lawyer admitted her client never regarded Mr King as someone who would hurt his children and acknowledged there was no evidence to support the claim.
Although Mr King conceded at the trial that he had a conviction for assault on a child from 2002, the doubt raised by Mr Kahui's lawyer was unreasonable and was rejected, Mr Evans says.
Son of Chris Kahui and Macsyna King
Aged 13 months at the time of the incident, the couple's first child was the subject of claims by Mr Kahui that he had caused the twins' injuries.
Mr Kahui initially told Ms King that Shane had crawled into the nursery, climbed up on the couch and run along the top of it.
Earlier, after noticing a bruise on one of the twins, Ms King said Mr Kahui told her that Shane had gone into the nursery and "got at the boys".
He then told police that he had put the twins on the couch and Shane had stood on them, but withdrew that claim during the inquest.
Early childhood educator Kathryn Stent gave evidence that Shane would not have been able to pull himself up on a couch or crawl across it.