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Kahui case: Trail of tragedy leads to one answer

Chris Kahui. Photo / Dean Purcell
Chris Kahui. Photo / Dean Purcell

Just over six years ago, Christopher and Cru Kahui died after suffering terrible head injuries. Chris Kahui was charged with their murders but was found not guilty after a seven-week High Court trial. Today, an inquest hearing has found the fatal injuries were inflicted on the 3-month-old twins while in the "sole custody, care and control" of their father. Jared Savage examines how coroner Garry Evans came to that conclusion.

1. What happened on Monday, June 12, 2006?

Macsyna King fed and bathed her twins at the Courtenay Cres home in Mangere about 11am. An argument broke out when she told her partner Chris Kahui that she wanted to spend time with her sister Emily. She left shortly before midday and did not return until 9.30am the following day. Shortly after Macsyna left, Chris Kahui's cousin April Saunders arrived. She helped feed a bottle of milk to Cru, who was described "as normal as can be", while Chris Kahui fed his other son. Coroner Garry Evans said the twins were "normal and well" at 1pm and had not sustained the serious brain injuries which led to their deaths.

2. Were the twins fed again?

The twins were fed on a six-hour cycle and their next feed was due around 6pm. The coroner said Chris Kahui was "resentful" that Macsyna King had left him to care for the twins, and their other son Shane, for a second night in a row.

He expected her to return at 6pm and was angry when she did not. His father, William "Banjo" Kahui, described himself as being in a rage and Chris Kahui as "absolutely furious". Chris Kahui told the police in three interviews that he fed the twins after April Saunders left. He said the twins continued to feed as normal until the following day. At the inquest, he sought to retract those statements and said that baby Chris did not cry or feed after Macsyna left. The medical experts at the inquest said the twins could not have fed normally after suffering the fatal injuries.

3. What happened in the twins' bedroom?

Shortly before 7pm, Chris Kahui took his sister Mona to visit their mother Gwen Hetaraka in Middlemore Hospital. He estimated he was away for 20 minutes before he returned and Macsyna King was not home yet.

Around 8.40pm, Chris Kahui was smoking a cigarette with his father, sister and Stuart King on the front steps of the house.

According to Stuart King, Chris Kahui seemed "a bit angry, down, a bit pissed off that he couldn't go to the hospital ... cos he had the twins and Shane to look after". He then went into the twins' bedroom where he was alone for a period of time - at least three minutes. When interviewed by the police, Chris Kahui said that he was in the nursery feeding baby Chris when Mona Kahui came into the room. At the inquest, he denied feeding his son. Mona Kahui told the inquest she saw her brother cuddling baby Chris but not feeding him. She then picked up baby Cru who was pale, his eyes rolled back and had purple lips. Mona Kahui ran to get Stuart King, who said Cru stopped breathing and at one stage he thought the baby had died. Chris Kahui performed CPR but would not call an ambulance or take them to the hospital. Instead he wanted Banjo Kahui to find Macsyna.

4. What happened on Tuesday, June 13, 2006?

Macsyna King arrived home around 9.35am and noticed a bruise on the face of one of the twins. She angrily confronted Chris Kahui who blamed their other son Shane, a toddler, for causing the injury. "It is likely that a father who bore no responsibility for the injury that led to the bruising would be very concerned, would want to know how his son had got such an injury and would join his partner in inquiring into what had gone on," said Mr Evans.

In his police interviews, Chris Kahui said he fed the twins before Macsyna came home on Tuesday. Mr Evans said this was "untrue" and Chris Kahui did not tell Macsyna the babies were not waking or crying for food. "Chris Kahui's behaviour in keeping these facts from others is incompatible with the behaviour one would reasonably expect from a normal father who had nothing to hide." The couple took the twins to their GP, who "straight away" knew that baby Chris was neurologically unwell.

The doctor called Middlemore Hospital for a referral, but Mr Evans said in retrospect he should have called an ambulance. Chris Kahui drove past the turn-off to the hospital and instead drove home, before walking out of the house to leave Macsyna King with the twins. Mr Evans said this behaviour, again, was "incompatible" with a father whose only concern was the welfare of his children. Macsyna King took the twins to Middlemore. They were then transferred to Starship Hospital.

She called Chris Kahui, who was playing video games, to tell him the boys were in a critical condition and to come to the hospital. Macsyna King said he hung up and continued playing video games.

5. How did the twins die?

Cru Kahui died on June 18 at 4.55am. Chris died at 6.45pm. Experts said the twins died from brain injuries consistent with blunt force trauma. Chris also had a broken leg and both babies had older rib injuries. The experts' views were the injuries were caused by a rapid acceleration and deceleration of the head, either from direct blows or being thrown against a firm surface such as a mattress. The possibility of violent shaking could not be excluded.

6. Did Macsyna King kill the twins?

The defence team for Chris Kahui advanced a theory, at both the trial and the inquest, that Macsyna King murdered the twins. Three alternatives were raised: that Macsyna King inflicted the injuries before she left on Monday, June 12, or returned in a 20-minute window while Chris Kahui was taking Mona Kahui to visit their mother in hospital, or the next morning when she returned. While aspects of her character did not show Macsyna King in "a good light", Mr Evans said the allegation was "unsupported by the evidence" and without substance in fact. "The theory is implausible".

7. The findings of coroner Garry Evans

"The Court is satisfied, on all the evidence before it, to the required standard of proof, that the traumatic brain injuries suffered by Chris and Cru Kahui were incurred by them during the afternoon/early evening of 12 June, 2006, whilst they were in the sole custody, care and control of their father at 22 Courtenay Cres, Mangere, Auckland."

- NZ Herald

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