Cousin begged Jovaan to stay

By Katie Holland


Jovaan Graham got into a car and left Rotorua - ignoring her cousin's pleas to stay.

Hours later the Tauranga woman was dead.

Further details of the events surrounding Ms Graham's death have emerged with relatives describing her as strong-minded and outgoing, and someone who loved to look beautiful.

A car struck the 18-year-old on the Kaimai Range and her body was found at Matamata's Pohlen Hospital. The vehicle's driver was allegedly abducted and assaulted but managed to escape and raise the alarm. Two people have been arrested and have appeared in court.

Ms Graham was a student at Tauranga hairdressing academy Hair to Train and moved to the city in 2007.

She spent Tuesday night at her cousin Kama Corbett's Rotorua home after arriving with a man and woman not known to Ms Corbett.

Ms Corbett, also 18, said the trio left about midnight to return to Tauranga.

"I asked her [Jovaan] to stay but she wouldn't listen to me," she said.

"She was going to stay and I was going to pay for her to go home in the morning. She was all for it then she went outside and came back and said 'I am going home'. I gave her a hug and kiss and they took off.

"I texted her father the next morning to see if she got home okay. He said she was found dead that morning and I just broke down. I didn't know what to think."

Ms Corbett said it still had not sunk in her cousin was dead.

"It's kind of shocking because I was the last to see her," she said.

"I am kicking myself because I should have dragged her inside ... but she was 18, old enough to make her own decisions."

Ms Corbett said her cousin got on with everyone and "always had the fancy hair, was always looking good".

Ms Graham's grandmother, Sarah Wiwarena, said she got a call from son Manahi Graham on Wednesday morning.

"He said I needed to go over there, Jovaan was dead."

The family had been told no foul play was involved in the death. "It's a blessing to us to know that."

Ms Wiwarena said her "outgoing", "strong-minded" granddaughter loved hair, beauty and nails. She would likely be farewelled in Tauranga and buried with her koro in Putaruru.

Aunt Christian Graham posted on Facebook the family were in "limbo".

"I lov u my darling u turned in2 a beautiful young lady im sori ths happened to u, u will always always be in my heart how cn i eva forget u ..." [sic]

A 30-year-old man and 23-year-old woman will appear in Tauranga District Court today charged with abduction, theft of a vehicle, unlawful use of a vehicle and injuring with intent.

A post-mortem examination confirmed Ms Graham died immediately when struck on SH29.

Arrangements were now being made to return the young woman to her family.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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