Relief at exorcism arrests

The paternal family of Janet Moses say it is a relief that those accused of her death have been arrested and charged.

Two months to the day since Ms Moses died in an exorcism ceremony, six women and three men appeared in Lower Hutt District Court jointly charged with her manslaughter.

Her grandfather Charlie Moses said though nothing could bring their granddaughter back, it was good to know someone was being held accountable.

Police have said the 22-year-old mother-of-two drowned after she was held down and had water poured down her throat in a ceremony to lift a makutu, or Maori curse, as up to 40 family members watched.

It was bedlam outside the court as supporters of the accused high-fived and applauded as they helped shield them from media after their appearance.

Nine face a joint charge of manslaughter, and one of the accused women and another man were jointly charged with cruelty to a child after a 14 year-old was injured in the same ceremony. She survived and was treated in hospital for an eye injury.

Unable to all fit in the dock, the 10 accused packed one side of the public gallery, accompanied by police.

Judge Denys Barry granted them interim name suppression and they were bailed to reappear on February 12.

They were ordered to surrender any passports, and not to advise or participate in any ceremony, makutu or cleansing procedure.

Only a handful of their supporters who went to court were allowed inside because of a lack of space.

But a contingent of about 30, mostly young, people gathered to shield the accused as they were freed one by one on bail, holding up hoodies and rubbish bags to block the cameras.

Many jostled with media, with one man threatening to “drop” a photographer.

Outside court, Detective Senior Sergeant Ross Levy said the arrests followed an intensive seven-week inquiry.

He said it was rare for so many people to be jointly charged with manslaughter.

“The circumstances surrounding Janet’s death are unusual, and the investigation has focused on those people with primary responsibility.”

The accused were members of Ms Moses’ extended family, he said.

The 14-year-old injured in the ceremony was improving and would hopefully have no long-term damage.

She was in the care of Child, Youth and Family, living with a family member from the other side of the family.

Mr Moses said the family was prepared for a long journey through the courts, and was strong and doing well.

Ms Moses’ two daughters were living with her mother, but the family saw them regularly.

The accused’s lawyer, Mike Antunovic, said the charges would be defended.


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Emily Watt, The Dominion Post, Dec. 13, 2007,

Religion News Blog posted this on Friday December 14, 2007.
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