Mother died in curse rit­ual

At­tempt to lift makutu led to bizarre drown­ing

The Dominion Post - - Front Page - JENNY LING EMILY WATT

and A WAINUIOMAT­A wo­man died dur­ing her fam­ily’s at­tempt to ex­or­cise a Maori curse, with the mother of two drown­ing in a lounge as up to 40 rel­a­tives watched.

Janet Moses, 22, died in a bizarre rit­ual at a rel­a­tive’s house last month as fam­ily mem­bers tried to drive out a makutu (curse).

The fam­ily be­lieved the curse was linked to a rel­a­tive steal­ing a taonga. An­other rel­a­tive be­com­ing sick was also blamed on the curse.

Ms Moses lay dead in the house for nine hours be­fore her fam­ily con­tacted po­lice. Her body was marked with grazes to her up­per arms, fore­arms and torso.

Po­lice con­firmed yes­ter­day that the death of Ms Moses, who had two daugh­ters aged three and one, was sus­pi­cious and a homi­cide in­quiry was un­der way.

The Do­min­ion Post has learned she drowned in an ‘‘ex­ten­sive amount’’ of wa­ter, held in plas­tic con­tain­ers in the lounge of a Welling­ton Rd house. Up to 40 peo­ple were watch­ing the cer­e­mony when she died.

A rel­a­tive said yes­ter­day that the fam­ily be­lieved a curse was put on Ms Moses af­ter some­one, ei­ther her sis­ter or a cousin, stole a blessed taonga.

In­quiry head De­tec­tive Se­nior Sergeant Ross Levy said de­tec­tives had in­ter­viewed 100 of Ms Moses’ fam­ily and friends dur­ing the past month. ‘‘The fam­ily have al­ways been the cen­tral fo­cus of the in­quiry and this has not changed and it won’t change. Our task is to iden­tify those re­spon­si­ble for Janet’s death.’’

An au­topsy had ruled out death by nat­u­ral causes, and po­lice be­lieved Ms Moses had drowned, Mr Levy said. ‘‘The next step is as­sess­ing the cul­pa­bil­ity of those in­volved.’’

The body of Ms Moses was found on a bed at the rel­a­tive’s house and was ini­tially treated as an un­ex­plained death.

Mr Levy con­firmed that a ‘‘cul­tural cer­e­mony’’ had taken place.

He would not com­ment on the fam­ily’s be­lief that they were vic­tims of a Maori curse. The fam­ily was co­op­er­at­ing with the in­quiry.

Mr Levy said Ms Moses’ pa­ter­nal fam­ily was not in­volved in the cer­e­mony. She had suf­fered no in­ter­nal in­juries, and no weapons were in­volved.

She had been stay­ing at the rel­a­tive’s house dur­ing the week lead­ing up to the cer­e­mony, which started on the evening of Oc­to­ber 11.

Though there were 30 to 40 peo­ple present at the time she died, a large num­ber of peo­ple had come to and from the house dur­ing the day as well, Mr Levy said.

The Welling­ton Rd house was aban­doned, with all furniture re­moved, when The Do­min­ion Post vis­ited yes­ter­day.

One neigh­bour said she had heard loud noises on the night of the cer­e­mony ‘‘like bang­ing on a wall’’.

Dr Hone Kaa, an archdea­con of the Maori Angli­can Church, said he was last in­volved in a makutu-lift­ing cer­e­mony 12 years ago, but said they were still com­mon­place.

‘‘It’s a very dif­fi­cult process. I’m per­son­ally very wary of re­mov­ing them.’’

He said that, though wa­ter was of­ten used to cleanse the vic­tim, ‘‘I’ve never heard of great gal­lons be­ing used’’.

Dr Kaa said there could be a phys­i­cal el­e­ment to the re­moval.

‘‘You may have to hold the per­son down be­cause the spirit may fight within the per­son to stay, so you need oth­ers around you to re­strain them.’’

At that stage, the sub­ject of the curse could get hurt, but Dr Kaa said he had never seen cuts or grazes in­flicted.

Pic­tures: ROSS GIBLIN

At rest: The grave of Janet Moses at Taita ceme­tery. The mother of two young chil­dren died dur­ing an ex­or­cism rit­ual in a house in Wainuiomat­a.

Death house: Janet Moses died in this house in Wainuiomat­a, as 40 fam­ily mem­bers watched. A mur­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion is un­der way.

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