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Family `Misguided' In Makutu Ceremony

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, May 18 NZPA - A Maori exorcism ceremony, or makutu, in which a young woman drowned, was taken too far by a family out of its depth and lacking in cultural and spiritual guidance, the High Court at Wellington has been told.

Janet Moses, 22, drowned during the ceremony that lasted several days in Wainuiomata on Friday, October 12, 2007, when water was forced in her mouth and eyes to flush out a "demon".

Nine of her extended family deny charges of manslaughter.

Tuhoe kaumatua Timi Rahi, who initially assisted the family in trying to treat a sick Ms Moses, today told the court that a cursed concrete lion statue taken from the Greytown Hotel should be returned to help her heal.

The statue was returned on the Tuesday before her death and Ms Moses seemed more relaxed.

However, the court heard how Ms Moses continued to point out evil spirits in the room after Mr Rahi left, which suggested her healing was not complete.

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 told the court he believed the whanau had done the right thing by engaging Mr Rahi but the process became undone when he left.

The whanau were being influenced by images of exorcism, he said.

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."

The nine accused, who have all pleaded not guilty, are John Tahana Rawiri, 49, Georgina Aroha Rawiri, 50, Tanginoa Apanui, 42, Hall Jones Wharepapa, 46, Angela Orupe, 36, Gaylene Tangiohororere Kepa, 44, Aroha Gwendoline Wharepapa, 48, Alfred Hughes Kepa, 48, and Glenys Lynette Wright, 52.

A man and woman who have denied wilful cruelty towards a 14-year-old girl who allegedly suffered severe eye injuries during the makutu have permanent name suppression.

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