Five found guilty in NZ exorcism case
Cries rang out in an emotion-filled courtroom after a New Zealand High Court jury found five members of the family of a young woman guilty of her manslaughter during a curse lifting ceremony.
Those found guilty of 22-year-old Janet Moses‘ manslaughter were: John Tahana Rawiri, 49; Tanginoa Apanui, 42; Angela Orupe, 36; Aroha Gwendoline Wharepapa, 48; and Glenys Lynette Wright, 52.
Hall Jones Wharepapa, 46; Gaylene Tangiohororere Kepa, 44; and Alfred Hughes Kepa, 48, were found not guilty.
A ninth defendant, Georgina Rawiri, was discharged in the High Court at Wellington on Wednesday after Justice Simon France said there was not enough evidence to charge her.
A man and woman with permanent name suppression, who denied wilful cruelty during the ceremony towards a second person, a 14-year-old girl, were found not guilty.
The five found guilty were remanded on bail for sentencing on August 14.
As the verdicts were read out, family and supporters openly wept. Amid chaos outside the courtroom, people were shouting and wailing, and there was hostility towards media and lawyers.
The family performed an exorcism on Moses in October 2007, forcing water into her mouth and eyes to flush out demons and lift the makutu, or curse.
Makatu, a belief in the occult, is a custom that dates back to Polynesian ancestors of the Maoris. Used as a means of enforcing the Maori code of law, it is still a potent force in modern Maori society. Believers think an evil spirit will leave a body it has possessed if they scratch the eyes of the victim and flush the spirit out with water. – The Times
Anger over manslaughter verdicts
Moses was killed during a makutu in Wainuiomata in 2007 after having water forced into her mouth and eyes. Her four aunts and an uncle were found guilty of her manslaughter while three family members were found not guilty.
The verdicts were met with howls of anger and wails of sorrow from the packed public gallery at the High Court at Wellington.
The verdicts are the final chapter in a saga that began in October 2007 when police were called to a Wainuiomata house. There they found the body of young mother Janet Moses, and the house soaked with water.
At trial the jury was told the accused believed Moses had become cursed after the theft of this lion statue from a Wairarapa pub.
They poured water down her throat to make her vomit up the demon, instead enough went into her lungs to drown her.
The Crown says the family missed signs of a mental illness and instead fatally tried to treat Moses on their own.
“Janet was held down on the floor while her eyelids were forced open, water poured on her face and in her eyes in an attempt to rid her of makutu,” said the Crown prosecutor.
But the Defence says the accused acted out of love and truly believed they were saving the woman from inner demons.
The Defence says that the accused, and even Moses herself, believed she was possessed by a curse.
“It must be a reasonable possiblity at very least that she actually consented to what was happening. It must be,” said Greg King, defence lawyer.
Janet Moses tragedy will not deter Maori from makutu ritual – Tuhoe elder
A Tuhoe elder says the guilty verdicts in the Janet Moses manslaughter case will not stop Maori from carrying out Makutu-lifting ceremonies.
The Reed Maori Dictionary’s definition of a Makutu is “bewitched or black magic” – but Tuhoe spokesman Tamati Cairns says it’s more like counselling and that the incident will not put Maori off continuing the practice.
The lifting of Makutu is still used among many Iwi around the country and can involve using water, prayer or waiata.
Cairns says the incident is a tragedy because the intentions were to help Moses.
“What’s happened is so unfortunate because it’s happened as a result of good aspiration but bad practice,” he says.
The five found guilty will be sentenced in August.