Hawke's Bay Today

High-ranking police officer on trial for sexual assault

- Jared Savage

Two women — one a victim of domestic violence — who put their trust in a police officer now accuse him of sexually assaulting them. Kevin Stephen Burke, now a detective inspector in Northland, faces two charges of indecent assault and two of unlawful sexual connection. His trial in the High Court at Auckland started yesterday and the charges relate to two female complainan­ts. The alleged offending happened in 2002 and 2003 when Burke was a detective in the Auckland region and the two women met him during separate criminal investigat­ions he was involved in. Burke entered not guilty pleas. In her opening statement to the jury, Crown prosecutor Jo Murdoch said the two female complaints came from “very different worlds and led very different lives”. The first complainan­t was similar in age to Burke, in her 40s, while the second complainan­t was in her 20s, at the time of the alleged offending. The older woman met with Burke in 2002 to discuss her dealings with a fraudster the detective was investigat­ing. A few weeks after Burke met her in a profession­al capacity, the Crown says the police officer turned up uninvited at the woman’s Auckland home one evening. He was carrying a box of beer and a bottle of wine, said Murdoch, and the pair talked for several hours on the deck of the woman’s home. The woman did not consume any alcohol but thought Burke was too drunk to safely drive, said Murdoch. So she offered him a bed in the spare room, where the Crown alleges, that Burke started to kiss her. Murdoch told the jury Burke allegedly overpowere­d the woman, pinned her arms above her head, before digitally penetratin­g her. She managed to break free of his grip and spent a sleepless night in her own room, said Murdoch, as Burke stayed the night in the spare room. The alleged attack was recorded in the woman’s diary, said Murdoch, although she did not make a complaint at the time. “She didn’t want to be a victim and got on with her life,” said Murdoch, saying the woman never saw Burke again about the fraudster. In response, Burke’s defence counsel Arthur Fairley said his client was invited to the woman’s home, the sexual contact was consensual, and the pair met for coffee and dinner — even after the alleged assault. He said Burke had absolutely no sexual contact “at any stage, shape, or form” with the second complainan­t. She was in her 20s, and in a violent relationsh­ip with a notorious criminal. Burke was the officer in charge of investigat­ing one particular assault where the woman was stabbed by her partner. The second complainan­t was in a “bad place” with her volatile lifestyle, said Murdoch, and saw Burke as a caring and profession­al police officer. The complainan­t and Burke continued to keep in touch, as she faced her own criminal charges. One Friday evening, the jury was told the detective turned up at her home with a bottle of wine and a pizza. The complainan­t went to bed feeling the effects of the alcohol. The Crown says Burke came into her room, undressed, got into bed with her, then rubbed his groin up and down her back, before falling asleep. A few weeks later, the Crown alleged Burke returned to the house and pinned her up against the wall to grope her buttocks and breast, as well as grinding his groin into her. On a third occasion, the Crown says he exposed himself to the woman, then forcibly performed oral sex on her. She later moved to Australia but made a formal complaint about Burke’s alleged sexual behaviour in 2017. When interviewe­d by police, about each complainan­t twice, Burke denied any sexual impropriet­y with the second complainan­t. He said the sexual contact with the first complainan­t was consensual. The 61-year-old Burke was suspended from the police in April 2017 when a criminal investigat­ion began. Criminal charges were laid in December that year. The trial is scheduled to last two weeks.

 ?? Photograph / Dean Purcell ?? Former top Northland police officer Kevin Burke stands in the dock at the Auckland High Court.
Photograph / Dean Purcell Former top Northland police officer Kevin Burke stands in the dock at the Auckland High Court.

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