Kurt Bayer

Kurt Bayer is an APNZ reporter based in Christchurch.

Murder accused 'watched as wife came to niece's aid'

Charlene Makaza. Photo / supplied
Charlene Makaza. Photo / supplied

Murder accused George Gwaze stood at his niece's bedroom door and watched his wife Sifiso struggle to clothe the unresponsive and "helpless'' 10-year-old, a court heard today.

Mrs Gwaze found the girl in bed with "loud breathing difficulties'' the morning after the Crown allege she was raped and suffocated by her uncle who she knew as "Dad''.

A 60-year-old former vet to the Zimbabwean government who migrated to Christchurch in 2005 to escape the Mugabe regime, Gwaze denies suffocating Charlene Makaza during a violent sex attack at their family home in 2007.

In the second day of his retrial at the High Court in Christchurch, Gwaze's wife of 32 years told the court she woke up at 5.45am the morning after the alleged attack when her alarm went off.

She heard "loud'' breathing coming from Charlene's room. The night-shift resthome worker rushed in, switched on the light and found Charlene unresponsive in her bed.

She started "shouting''. Her daughter Nothando was also in the room in a separate bed and woken by the commotion.

"I called out three times (to Charlene) but there was no response,'' said the 57-year-old.

"I shouted to my husband, 'Can you please come to Charlene's room, she's not well'.''

She told Nothando to phone her sister Lillian to ask where they should take her for medical assistance.

Lillian, who also lived in Christchurch, told them to go straight to the 24-hour Bealey Ave medical centre.

Mrs Gwaze pulled back Charlene's covers and noticed her clothes and bedding was badly soiled.

She started undressing her and struggling to put clean clothes on her.

"What was your husband doing?'' asked Crown prosecutor Brent Stanaway.

"He was standing at the door watching me,'' Mrs Gwaze said. "He was giving me advice, telling me we shouldn't take much time, we should rush.''

They wrapped the girl in towels and the two of them carried her downstairs to the car.

Mr Gwaze drove them to the Bealey Ave centre where Charlene was put on a drip.

She was then rushed by ambulance to Christchurch Hospital where trauma staff battled to save her life.

She was scheduled to fly to Starship Hospital in Auckland for specialist treatment but died in Christchurch the next day.

Mrs Gwaze earlier told the jury of seven men and five women how she came to look after her sister's daughters, including Charlene.

Charlene's mother - Mrs Gwaze's younger sister - died of tuberculosis in Zimbabwe in 1998. The girl's father died two years later. Mrs Gwaze claimed not to know what killed him.

Despite having four children with Mr Gwaze and another from a different relationship she took five-month-old Charlene and her older sister Charmaine into her care.

She said her sister was "not feeling well'' when Charlene was born, but denied knowing whether either parent was HIV positive.

Charlene was often unwell as a small child in Zimbabwe and had been taken to the local GP for chest infections and diarrhoea, she said.

Mr Stanaway asked if Charlene was being treated for HIV symptoms but Mrs Gwaze said she was not aware of that.

Mrs Gwaze said the girl was given a prescription for antibiotics, and when she emigrated to New Zealand in 2005 - one year after her husband - got a six-month supply of the antibiotic cotrimoxazole.

She told the court that when she registered Charlene with a Christchurch GP she did not inform the doctor of the prescription, the girl's previous health history, or how her parents died.

"I didn't think it was my responsibility to tell the doctor ... I thought he'd initiate something, or ask me, or do some tests on Charlene but he did nothing.''

Charlene was enrolled at Wairakei School but was often too unwell to attend, she said. Mrs Gwaze worked nights so stayed at home with her during the day and administered her the Zimbabwe-prescribed drugs, which "would settle her down''.

She said she found out the girl was HIV-positive from Christchurch Hospital staff working to save her life after her "collapse'' on the night Gwaze is alleged to have attacked her.

Asked by Mr Stanaway how she responded to the news the girl had the disease, she replied she thought it had been "building for some time''.

Earlier today a city detective investigating Charlene's death told the court the case involved one of the "most detailed'' crime scene examinations of his career.

Detective Anthony Clare was the first witness to give evidence at the trial, which is expected to last four weeks and involve more than 90 witnesses.

As officer in charge of the crime scene, Mr Clare oversaw a six-hour examination of the home on Hollyford Ave, Bryndwr and found "no sign of forced entry''.

Inside the victim's upstairs bedroom, police found religious books and hair straighteners.

There were no sheets on Charlene's bed, while the bed covers were "scrunched up at the head of the bed'', Mr Clare said.

The next day ESR staff tested Mr Gwaze's bed, which he shared with his wife, for traces of blood and semen, but the results were negative.

Mr Clare said the entire scene examination took four days before the house was "released back'' to the Gwaze family.

Mr Gwaze denies one count of murder and two charges of sexual violation.

The trial continues.

- APNZ

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