Nine exorcism death accused appear in court

Nine people charged with the manslaughter of woman during an exorcism were ordered not to take part in any more makutu lifting ceremonies when they appeared in court today.

Janet Moses, a 22-year-old mother of two, was found dead by police at her grandparents' Wainuiomata house on October 12 after relatives had apparently held a ceremony to try and drive out a Maori curse or makutu.

When police arrived at the house - they were called eight hours after Ms Moses' death - water was ankle deep on the floor.

A post-mortem examination showed Ms Moses had died following a water cleansing ceremony. A 14-year-old girl survived the ceremony and was treated in hospital for an eye injury.

The six women and three men - aged between 42 and 57 - jointly charged with Ms Moses' manslaughter did not enter a plea when they appeared in Lower Hutt District Court this afternoon

They were remanded on bail to reappear in court on February 12. Judge Denis Barry granted them interim name suppession until that date.

One of the women, and a fourth man, have also been jointly charged with cruelty to a child.

The ten were bailed with the conditions that they must not participate in or advise anyone in relation to any ceremony involving makutu (exorcism) or cleansing procedures. They also must surrender their passports and not seek any other travel documents.

The ten left the court out the back door amidst a large number of supporters, who shrouded them with jerseys.

Detective Senior Sergeant Ross Levy said outside the court the arrests had come after an intensive seven-week investigation.

It had taken into account cultural circumstances and had focused on her extended family.

"The circumstances surrounding Janet's death are unusual and the investigation has focused on those people primarily responsible."

Police had decided to charge the nine with manslaughter, rather than murder, after seeking independent legal advice, Mr Levy said.

The arrests today had gone smoothly with all accused cooperating, he said.

Mr Levy said Ms Moses' 14-year-old cousin was improving and would hopefully have no long term damage.

She was now living with a family member under Child, Youth and Family care.

The investigation had been hard on other members of Ms Moses' extended family, he said.

"Everyone involved with the investigation is obviously very distraught."

Mr Levy earlier said cultural practices had been considered in the decision to lay charges, which followed an "intensive investigation".

"It is rare for so many people to be jointly charged with manslaughter but the investigation team has, like in other inquiries, focused on issues of primary culpability," he said.

- NZHERALD STAFF with NZPA

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