Her kid­nap­ping as a baby made na­tional news. But the now 18-year-old has qui­etly made a life for her­self among fam­ily and her beloved horses

Herald on Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - Carolyne Meng-Yee

She was the “$3 mil­lion baby” of high-pro­file par­ents whose ab­duc­tion cap­tured a na­tion. She’s now an 18-year-old school­girl liv­ing in ru­ral Ro­torua who en­joys noth­ing more than rid­ing her horses, and dreams of be­ing an ac­tress one day.

In 2002, Kahu Piripi, who went by Kahu Durie, was snatched at gun­point by Ter­ence Ward Traynor from a Lower Hutt street while her adop­tive mother, high­pro­file Welling­ton lawyer Donna Hall was push­ing her in her pram. Traynor sought a $3 mil­lion ran­som for 8-month-old Kahu’s re­turn but po­lice found her at his Tau­marunui house eight days later and ar­rested him. Many Ki­wis will re­mem­ber the im­ages of Hall and hus­band, for­mer High Court judge Sir Ed­die Durie, hold­ing on dearly to Kahu after they were re­united with her.

But in her first in­ter­view, the Ro­torua Girls’ High School stu­dent told the Her­ald on Sun­day she was re­turned to live with her bi­o­log­i­cal par­ents after the kid­nap­ping — a de­ci­sion her fa­ther Jarmie Piripi made. “He didn’t want me in that en­vi­ron­ment so he came and got me him­self. I grew up with all my sib­lings like I’d never been whangaied out.”

Kahu’s par­ents sep­a­rated when she was 3 and she was raised by her fa­ther, his part­ner Kim Haira and her sib­lings, Robert, 40, Leanne, 32, Kiri, 27, and Iha, 24.

Jarmie Piripi died on March 7 last year from a heart at­tack, aged 58, which took its toll.

“When Dad died I lost mo­ti­va­tion, my world stopped. He died at home and I found him. Last year was so hard without Dad — Christ­mas, birth­days and stuff . . . it’s al­ways there, it’s al­ways in our minds and stuff. He was our rock.”

She now lives on a farm on the out­skirts of Ro­torua with Haira and Haira’s son Himiona, Robert and Iha, eight horses and three dogs.

When the Her­ald on Sun­day vis­ited, Kahu was en­joy­ing the school hol­i­days and about to go for a ride on her horse Rocket on fam­ily farm­land.

Kahu said she has a pretty “nonex­is­tent” re­la­tion­ship with her adop­tive par­ents. Hall de­clined to com­ment for this story to the Her­ald on Sun­day.

Kahu of­ten won­ders what life might have been — Traynor snatched her after see­ing Hall’s name in a story about the Na­tional Busi­ness Re­view’s Rich List which es­ti­mated Hall to be worth $10 mil­lion. His ini­tial plan had been to abduct Hall.

“I al­ways think about it,” Kahu said. “My life would have been priv­i­leged. I would prob­a­bly be more elo­quent, and poised I as­sume be­cause they are con­stantly in some sort of spot­light. But I wouldn’t give up the life I had.

“I grew up very hum­bled and I’ve never re­ally had what I wanted but I had ev­ery­thing I needed, such as love, sup­port, an­i­mals, and school­ing. I would feel un­grate­ful if I asked for a dif­fer­ent life. I was never in need, I was loved, which is the most im­por­tant thing.”

As a new­born Kahu was whangaied to Hall, her bi­o­log­i­cal mother Anaha Morehu’s sis­ter, and Durie.

“Mum’s older sis­ter couldn’t have chil­dren so I was whangaied to her as a bridge be­tween her and my mother — they never had the clos­est re­la­tion­ship. But it also hap­pens when fam­i­lies have too many kids, my mum had four kids al­ready.

“I think it was the eas­i­est op­tion to keep me with some­one they knew. I think I would’ve been more hurt if I was placed with CYF. At least I was go­ing to be raised by a fam­ily and I would’ve grown up know­ing who was my fam­ily. I would’ve still learned my whaka­papa through them.”

Kahu says her fa­ther was pro­tec­tive and re­luc­tant to dis­cuss the ab­duc­tion with her un­til she was older, but “it never hap­pened”.

“My dad didn’t want my life to be de­fined as ‘the kid­napped baby’. He wanted me to make my own life on my own terms. He tried to pro­tect me — I wouldn’t say hid­den, but sur­rounded by fam­ily.”

But as Kahu got older cu­rios­ity got the bet­ter of her. “I learned about what hap­pened from ar­ti­cles I read and lit­tle bits Dad would di­vulge. I had dreams about the kid­nap­ping but that was from read­ing the ar­ti­cles. That was the only trauma I got from it.

My life would have been priv­i­leged. I would prob­a­bly be more elo­quent, and poised I as­sume be­cause they are con­stantly in some sort of spot­light. But I wouldn’t give up the life I had.

“It was very tough for my dad who didn’t like to show his emo­tions but he said there were days and days of wait­ing and pray­ing. He told me he was hold­ing back his mates who wanted to storm down there to find me. They didn’t want to wait.

“It was the first time a baby was kid­napped. It was un­heard of and peo­ple didn’t know how to re­act. But as soon as the man was caught and they knew I was safe, Dad drove all the way to Welling­ton to get me with all my sib­lings in the car.”

Kahu felt for her adop­tive par­ents.

“The kid­nap­ping was a blow for my aunty and un­cle — you can’t say they didn’t suf­fer emo­tion­ally from that, es­pe­cially know­ing my aunty was the main tar­get but in­stead the baby who was sup­posed to be your daugh­ter be­came that tar­get in­stead.”

Traynor pleaded guilty to five charges re­lat­ing to the kid­nap­ping and the threats he made to Hall and her two nieces, who had been walk­ing with her at the time. He was sen­tenced to 11 years in prison and re­leased after serv­ing seven years in 2009.

Traynor’s brother, who didn’t want to be named, told the Her­ald on Sun­day, he now lives off the grid “some­where in the North Is­land”. He doesn’t drink and is into fit­ness. He said Traynor was in a car crash 10 years ago that nearly killed him.

The year he kid­napped Kahu, Traynor had bought the Tau­marunui home and fit­ted it out to hold his hostage — mak­ing it sound­proof and ren­o­vat­ing the in­te­rior so his vic­tim couldn’t es­cape.

He also spent months scop­ing Hall’s

Lower Hutt house to mon­i­tor the fam­ily’s move­ments. He used de­coy cars fit­ted with stolen num­ber plates to cover his tracks.

Traynor’s brother wasn’t shocked that his brother had mas­ter­minded the kid­nap­ping.

“It’s not like we couldn’t be­lieve it. I think my mother was in more shock than any­thing. He snapped for some rea­son and no one could un­der­stand why. We’re an odd fam­ily, our up­bring­ing wasn’t the most pic­turesque.

“I re­gret what hap­pened and so does my brother. I wish the girl all the best — it must be weird be­ing the $3 mil­lion baby.

“Ev­ery­one with half a brain knows it was a ridicu­lous and stupid thing to do, in­clud­ing him. But he did it and he has to live with the reper­cus­sions and the con­se­quences. But re­main­ing anony­mous is high on his list of pri­or­i­ties.”

Kahu, ap­pre­cia­tive of the sen­ti­ment, said: ” I want to thank them for ac­knowl­edg­ing it did hap­pen. I hold noth­ing against them and I thank them for their apol­ogy: it’s not needed from them.”

The man said his brother lost his way after his 5-year-old son Ni­cholas died in a farm­ing ac­ci­dent nearly 40 years ago. He be­came es­tranged from his fam­ily and moved to Aus­tralia in the 1970s.

“His life, in gen­eral, has been trau­matic. In­ter­est­ingly there was a sec­tion of the pop­u­la­tion who thought — other than do­ing a stupid, stupid thing — Ter­ence was very gen­tle, very car­ing and made sure the baby was safe. There was no harm done. But I am so pleased the girl is do­ing well.”

A doc­u­men­tary was made in 2010 of the kid­nap­ping which Kahu watched but said she “couldn’t take it se­ri­ously” as it was “over­drama­tised”.

Grow­ing up, Kahu al­ways thought of her­self as a Piripi but the name Durie re­mained on her birth cer­tifi­cate and she re­called a funny mo­ment on her first day of high school. “I for­got about it to be hon­est. At the roll call when they yelled out ‘Durie, Kahu’ I didn’t re­act. Thirty names later I was still sit­ting there and it fi­nally clicked I am a Durie. I got some funny looks but it was funny to me.”

Kahu is in her fi­nal year of school and study­ing mu­sic, theatre, dance and English. After school, she is a wait­ress at Pataka Kai, a restau­rant at Ro­torua tourist at­trac­tion Te Puia. She is part of the cast ensem­ble in the mu­si­cal Grease.

She hopes to fur­ther her act­ing ca­reer at Toi Whakaari drama school in Welling­ton, or go to uni­ver­sity. But she is not ready to leave home yet.

“I want to be an ac­tor but I’m not quite ready. I want to wait un­til I am com­fort­able and not push my­self too early to go. I love my life with the horses, I own eight of them and I can’t imag­ine be­ing away from my an­i­mals for months on end.”

She is con­tent to re­main a “home­body” and doesn’t want to be re­mem­bered as the $3 mil­lion baby.

“I don’t re­ally think about the man who kid­napped me. I look at life now and I have no re­grets. I am not ask­ing ques­tions any­more. I don’t feel like I need to rec­on­cile any­thing for my­self.”

I don’t re­ally think about the man who kid­napped me. I look at life now and I have no re­grets. I am not ask­ing ques­tions any­more. I don’t feel like I need to rec­on­cile any­thing for my­self.

Photo / Ja­son Ox­en­ham

Kahu Piripi, 18, with her horse Rocket on her fam­ily prop­erty near Ro­torua.

Pho­tos / Mark Mitchell, Derek Flynn, Christchur­ch Star.

Clock­wise from left: A po­lice team search­ing for ab­ducted baby Kahu Durie in Welling­ton sub­urb of South­gate; Ter­ence Traynor; Traynor’s prop­erty; Donna Hall and Jus­tice Ed­die Durie re­united with baby Kahu; Hall, with in­quiry head De­tec­tive In­spec­tor Stu­art Wil­don, mak­ing an im­pas­sioned plea for the re­turn of Kahu.

Jarmie Piripi

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