Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an NZME. News Service reporter

Gwaze trial: Medical staff feared child had meningitis

Charlene Makaza. Photo / Supplied
Charlene Makaza. Photo / Supplied

Staff at a 24-hour medical centre where alleged 10-year-old murder victim Charlene Makaza was rushed after being found unresponsive in her bed feared she had meningitis, a court was told today.

The evidence came on the third day of the High Court retrial in Christchurch of George Gwaze, a 60-year-old Zimbabwean vet accused of raping and murdering his young niece in Christchurch in January 2007.

The Crown alleges she was raped and suffocated by her uncle who she knew as "dad''.

The defence claims Charlene was "riddled'' with an HIV virus she had carried since birth, and that was what killed her.

The court has been told she was diagnosed with HIV at Christchurch Hospital only after she was found dying in her bed.

Gwaze has denied one count of murder and two charges of sexual violation.

His wife of 32 years, Sifiso told the court today that after finding her with ``loud breathing difficulties'' and covered in diarrhoea in her room in the family home in Bryndwr, Christchurch, they rushed her to a 24-hour medical centre.

They carried her inside, and staff treated her for a high temperature, giving her a suppository and putting her on a drip.

They called for an ambulance to take her to Christchurch Hospital emergency department as they feared she had meningitis.

"We were very concerned. It was very stressful,'' 57-year-old Mrs Gwaze told the jury of seven men and five women.

After being seen in the emergency department, she was taken to a trauma room where "a lot of doctors'' worked on the dying girl.

They also feared she might have meningitis, and told the Gwazes she would be transferred to Starship Children's Hospital in Auckland where she would receive specialist treatment.

Only two family members could go with her, so Mrs Gwaze said she would go, along with her son Tafadzwa, who was "very close'' with Charlene - the "baby'' of the family.

But the Christchurch medical team found her quickly condition deteriorated, and also found she was HIV positive. She died the next day. Charlene was a "quiet and sweet little girl'' who was often unwell and had to be showered, dressed, and fed by her aunty Sifiso, the court was earlier told by Mrs Gwaze.

Mrs Gwaze, a 57-year-old rest home night-shift worker, said that Charlene was "a little bit different'' from her other five children at the same age.

She was often unwell and unable to go to school, she said.

Under cross-examination by defence counsel James Rapley, Mrs Gwaze said she often had to feed her niece, who called her "mum'', to make sure she ate enough.

She also bathed and showered her, and even had to dress her for school and church.

"Charlene was a little bit different,'' she said.

Yesterday the court was told that Charlene's mother - Mrs Gwaze's younger sister - died of tuberculosis in Zimbabwe in 1998.

The girl's father died two years later and, despite having four children with Mr Gwaze and another from a different relationship, Sifiso took 5-month-old Charlene and her older sister Charmaine into her care.

Today Mrs Gwaze said that the family adapted to cope with living with Charlene, who had more needs than the other children.

She never participated in PE at school, and while her other siblings were "playing rough and tumble outside'', Charlene preferred to "sit in the house''.

"If she took part in any physical activity, she felt tired,'' Mrs Gwaze said.

The court was told that Charlene also found going to the toilet painful''.

She enjoyed school but was struggling with her schoolwork, said Mrs Gwaze.

Her husband, a former vet to the Zimbabwean government who migrated to Christchurch in 2005 to escape the Mugabe regime, had worked in Christchurch at a lab technician, she said.

Mrs Gwaze said her husband had a "fatherly relationship'' with Charlene.

Their "special'' TV programme was Animal Planet, since he was a vet and they "both loved animals''.

She said that Mr Gwaze treated her the same as his own children, possibly even more so because she was "the baby of the family''.

The Gwaze couple enjoyed a "normal, active'' sex life, according to Mrs Gwaze. Asked by Mr Rapley if Mr Gwaze used a condom, she replied, "Never.''

The trial continues.

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