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Woman Had Water Poured In Eyes, Down Throat During Ceremony

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, May 4 NZPA - A Lower Hutt family accused over the death of 22-year-old Janet Moses during an alleged makutu , poured water into her eyes and down her throat during the curse-lifting ceremony, a court has been told.

Nine members of Ms Moses family pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter of the 22-year-old woman at the High Court in Wellington today.

Six women and three men were charged with manslaughter.

One of the women and another man also pleaded not guilty to ill-treating a 14-year-old causing her unnecessary suffering.

Crown prosecutor Kate Feltham, in her opening address to the jury of five men and seven women, told the court that Ms Moses drowned during an apparent cleansing ceremony or makutu at her grandparents' home in Wainuiomata in October 2007.

The family believed Ms Moses was possessed, Ms Feltham said.

During the ceremony, Ms Moses was restrained, while family members formed a circle around her, poured water into her eyes and down her throat.

Ms Moses' behaviour had changed since her grandmother died in August and the family had become increasingly concerned about her.

In the week before Ms Moses' death, a kaumatua came to visit the family and told them a lion statue in the house, stolen by Ms Moses' sister from Greytown, needed to be returned.

Until this happened Ms Moses would not get well, the kaumatua told the family.

The family returned the statue but Ms Moses was still acting strangely, Ms Feltham said.

The family decided to heal Ms Moses themselves and believing she was still possessed, began a curse-lifting ceremony, Ms Feltham said.

It started with prayers and karakia, but eventually turned more intense, with family members shouting "get out" and "leave her alone" to purge the demon from Ms Moses, she said.

Water was then poured on Ms Moses' face, down her throat and into her eyes.

At times she was restrained and if she tried to break free, the restraining was increased, Ms Feltham said.

On the morning of October 12, Ms Moses died from drowning.

During the ceremony, other members of the family were also believed to have become possessed by the curse and were also cleansed.

A 14-year-old girl had her eyes gouged and water poured down her throat, Ms Feltham said.

On behalf of the 10 accused and their lawyers, defence lawyer Mike Antunovic said the family believed they were trying to help Ms Moses.

The family believed Ms Moses was actually possessed, he said.

None of the accused were acting with any criminal intent. The trial is set down for four to six weeks. Justice Simon France told the jurors the trial was not about whether or not they believed in exorcism.

It was whether an unlawful act had been committed.

Justice France heard applications for continued name suppression of the accused this morning.

He reserved his decision until tomorrow. NZPA WGT rf rq nb

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