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Tapu Misa is a Herald columnist focussing on Pacific affairs

Tapu Misa: 'World's worst mother' is entitled to have her say

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Macsyna King. Photo / Dean Purcell
Macsyna King. Photo / Dean Purcell

It's disconcerting when you find yourself in the corner with people you've seldom (Ian Wishart), if ever (Christine Rankin), agreed with. Especially when there's an angry and unforgiving 48,000-strong Facebook community (I hesitate to use the incendiary "mob", however apt) on the other side.

But, at the risk of becoming the second most hated woman in the country, I will say that when Breaking Silence: The Kahui Case is published next month, I intend to buy it and read it. I, for one, want to hear what the Kahui twins' mother Macsyna King has to say.

Why would I not?

Because Macsyna shouldn't be allowed to profit from her babies' death? She won't. Apart from three slices of pizza, says the book's author and publisher Ian Wishart, she's getting nothing.

Because nobody should profit? Wishart is a former award-winning journalist, who now edits the conspiracy-loving Investigate magazine.

I'm not a fan of the magazine or the books he's written, but to suggest, as some in the media have, that Wishart should have turned his back on the chance to gain some insight into a case that, five years down the track, continues to generate such strong public interest and emotion, is frankly hypocritical. Human frailty and tragedy are our stock in trade in the news media. Telling stories in the hope of illuminating an issue is what we do. I would have done the same thing in his place.

Because there's nothing more to be learned? Mike Hosking might confidently assert, as he did on Close Up last week, that "I don't need to read the book - because I know what happened, and what happened is, they're a bunch of dysfunctional losers and their kids died".

But I'm inclined to the old-fashioned view that you need to read a book before you can decide if it's rubbish. There's a chance we might actually learn something, which I would have thought would be a good thing given our horrifying child abuse statistics.But I'm inclined to the old-fashioned view that you need to read a book before you can decide if it's rubbish. There's a chance we might actually learn something, which I would have thought would be a good thing given our horrifying child abuse statistics.

I've never met Macsyna. I'm not sure I'd like her. But when I look at her photos, at footage of her during her ex-partner Chris Kahui's trial, the overwhelming impression I have is of a woman in pain.

I don't need to be convinced that she was tragically deficient as a mother, and that her failure to protect her babies makes her at least partly culpable for their deaths.

As far as I can tell she's not arguing that she doesn't bear responsibility for what happened, or that she wasn't "the world's worst mother", as Wishart has said.

But that's different from saying she killed her babies. Macsyna is not, as some have suggested, comparable to the narcissistic killer Clayton Weatherston, who was rightly found guilty of murder after stabbing his ex-girlfriend 216 times. There was no doubt of Weatherston's guilt. He gloried in his crime and the attention it drew. I wouldn't buy a book by or about him.

Macsyna, on the other hand, hasn't been found guilty of anything. She hasn't even been charged.

After the twins' father Chris Kahui was acquitted of their murders in 2008, the police said they believed they had arrested the right person. The inquiry head, Detective Inspector John Tims, told the Herald at the time: "There is no evidence to support a charge against any other person and that includes the mother, Macsyna King."

Chris Kahui walked free because his defence team did a good job of creating reasonable doubt and pointing the finger at Macsyna. That's the way our justice system works. But Kahui's innocence doesn't automatically make Macsyna guilty.

The Facebook haters say Macsyna shouldn't be allowed to tell her story, having remained silent when it mattered. But this isn't entirely true. Wishart told Close Up Macsyna "was beginning to help police early on", that she was a prime witness for police, and "I think the fact that she wasn't charged, the fact that clearly police went in another direction, shows that they believe her, as do I".

Macsyna has "laid her life bare. She said, here it is, take me, look at it. Learn from it".

The book, says Wishart, would "lay out the world that we in middle-class New Zealand don't see, and it lays out the reasons and how quickly things can fall off the rails. The reality is, Macsyna had actually had a university education. She is a smart woman and yet she made some bad choices."

Whatever the reasons, there's little doubt Macsyna was a negligent mother. She may still be charged for failing to provide "the necessaries of life". But there remains a very real possibility that this woman is innocent of the acts that led directly to her babies' deaths.

And if that's the case, does she really deserve to be crucified?

- NZ Herald

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