Partner faces murder charge

By Peter de Graaf

A judge says naming a Northland man charged with murdering his partner will not place the accused's trial at risk.

Matiu Wirihana Korewha, named as Mathew Wilson Korewha on court documents, appeared in Kaikohe District Court yesterday, charged with murdering 32-year-old mother of four Barbara Moka.

Korewha, 43, stood with his head bowed throughout his brief appearance, making no eye contact with his or Ms Moka's friends and relatives crowding the public gallery.

About 15 members of each family were present.

Judge Keith de Ridder remanded Korewha in custody to appear in the High Court at Whangarei on July 18.

No application for bail was made and no plea was entered.

Korewha's lawyer Catherine Cull did, however, apply for continuation of last week's name suppression. She was concerned that publication of another charge laid last week could affect her client's chances of a fair trial.

Judge de Ridder saw "no real risk" to a fair trial and said there was strong public interest in the case, which was already in the public domain.

The lifting of previous suppression orders means we can now reveal Korewha was charged at his first court appearance last week with injuring with intent to injure in relation to a separate incident, an alleged assault on Ms Moka on January 7. He is due back in Kaikohe District Court on that charge on July 17.

Ms Moka's body was found in bush about 800 metres up a metal farm road from Omanaia's Te Piiti Marae, where she was last seen in the early hours of June 9.

Korewha, who had been Ms Moka's partner since she moved to Rawene last year, originally told police they had left a tangi together but crashed a short distance up Omanaia Rd. He said they returned on foot to the marae, from where she subsequently disappeared.

Friends and family became alarmed when Ms Moka had not used her cellphone or bank account for a week.

Ms Moka was not found in an initial search around the marae and crash scene, because her body was just outside the search boundary. Police would say only that information from the public led them to her.

The Moka and Korewha families were kept on opposite sides of the courtroom yesterday, but there was no obvious sign of tension. The only interruption came after a discussion on name suppression when a Moka family supporter called out: "Name yourself, man".

Ms Moka worked as a receptionist at the Copthorne Hotel in Omapere. Her children, aged 7 to 15, did not live with her.

It is understood she was buried in Auckland, where most of her whanau live.

Korewha, who lived on Rawene's Parnell St, had been employed as a tour guide at Footprints Waipoua and Crossings Hokianga, award-winning eco-tourism ventures which offer twilight walks in Waipoua Forest and cruises of the Hokianga Harbour.

The Footprints Waipoua website said Korewha had been studying sustainable rural development at NorthTec. He had previously volunteered with World Vision and Doctors Without Borders in countries such as Malawi, Ethiopia, Cameroon and Algeria. After returning to New Zealand in 2009, he worked for Ngapuhi Iwi Social Services.

Police are still looking for Ms Moka's clothing, wallet and Nokia cellphone, taken from her home in the days after she disappeared. Ms Moka was just 1.5m tall and 45kg so the clothing is size 8 or smaller. An appeal for information last week gave police some leads but the property has not yet been found. Call the Kaikohe station on (09) 405 2960 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

- Northern Advocate

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