Family of Janet Moses “kind of celebrated” when she vomited during a ceremony to rid her of a curse, a jury has heard.
Ms Moses’ cousin Ivan Wharepapa said he took the vomiting to be her spitting out the demon.
Mr Wharepapa was giving evidence today in the third week of the Wellington High Court trial of nine people – including his own parents Aroha and Hall Wharepapa – charged with Ms Moses’ manslaughter.
She died on October 12, 2007, when the Crown says she drowned as a result of the accused pouring water into her mouth and over her face during a ceremony to “cleanse” her.
Earlier today, an expert in Tainui iwi culture told the jury that the water-based cleansing ceremony was misguided, misinformed and mistaken.
Dr Tui Adams said Ms Moses’ family had done the right thing in consulting a kaumatua in October 2007 when her behaviour led them to believe she was affected by a makutu or curse.
The actions of the kaumatua in blessing her and returning a lion statue that was believed to be associated with the curse were correct but after the kaumatua left the family started a process that had no cultural basis and was totally foreign to Dr Adams.
Tainui senior kaumatua Tui Adams, who is a senior lecturer at Te Wananga o Aotearoa in Hamilton, was called as an expert witness, to provide a view of Ms Moses’ death.
Dr Adams said there was no specific water cleansing process in Maori culture.
He had never encountered parts of the ceremony performed on Ms Moses before, which he described as “extreme”.
Alien aspects included the use of force, not allowing anyone to leave the house, not allowing them to sleep or close their eyes, using a crutch as a taiaha and pouring water in the eyes.
Neither had he heard of the idea that evil spirits could invade a person if they looked into someone’s eyes,
“I believe the whanau have mistakenly tried to rid her of evil spirits as opposed to the real issue, which was Janet herself,” Dr Adams said.
Some sort of professional or outside help should have been sought, either commonsense, religious or clinical support, he said.
The family may have had a genuine belief an evil spirit had invaded Ms Moses, “but they did not have the cultural or spiritual knowledge to do what they did”.
“From this point the actions of the whanau were misguided, misinformed and unfortunately, mistaken.”