The Dominion Post
Mother died in curse ritual
Attempt to lift makutu led to bizarre drowning
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.