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Herald on Sunday editorial: Justice no closer for the twins

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Chris and Cru Kahui. Photo / Supplied
Chris and Cru Kahui. Photo / Supplied

Coroner Garry Evans displayed both courage and intelligence in his findings into the deaths of twins Chris and Cru Kahui.

If the police case pointed the finger of blame at their father, Chris Kahui, Evans' 77-page report shakes a fist. Kahui was acquitted by a jury of murdering the twins, but the inquest, which could not, under law, commence until the criminal charges were disposed of, leaves no doubt as to who the coroner thinks was responsible.

The twins died, Evans said, "whilst they were in the sole custody, care and control of their father". Kahui's behaviour on the day the twins died was "incompatible with what might reasonably be expected of a caring father with nothing to hide" - those last four words are both chilling and telling - and his evidence had been "unreliable, conflicting and on many occasions untrue". It is hard to imagine a more damning choice of words.

The coroner's finding does not amount to a verdict that Kahui is guilty of murder.

Murder must be proven, beyond reasonable doubt, to the satisfaction of a jury.

A coronial inquest is not a criminal trial but what is known as an inquisitorial hearing: it determines facts but does not find guilt. And it is here that Evans' finding is both bold and provocative. In finding how the twins came to meet their deaths he did not - indeed, legally may not - find that Kahui bore criminal responsibility. But interestingly, he said that he was "satisfied to the point of being sure" of his finding.

Anyone who has heard the summing-up in a murder trial will have heard the term "beyond reasonable doubt" explained: the judge says that "it means you are sure".

Little wonder that Kahui's defence team and supporters were angry at the coroner's conclusion. They had engaged in - and finally abandoned - a legal battle to stop the report being made public.

But Kahui's lawyer, Lorraine Smith, stated the obvious when she said the findings were "inconsistent with [Kahui's] acquittal". She is right at law, of course, but the coroner had already inserted that caveat into his finding.

It is impossible not to feel some sympathy in all this for the twins' mother, Macsyna King. Evans utterly exonerates her of any direct responsibility for the twins' deaths - he said there was "not a skerrick" of evidence that she was in the house on the evening in question. And she has doubtless blamed herself more often and more pointedly than anyone else ever could for leaving them in their father's care. But her tear-stained appearance on Campbell Live, orchestrated by the ponderously ingratiating host, veered uncomfortably close to beatification.

King lamented the public opprobrium she has endured as "torment and torture and horrible". Her lawyer, Marie Dyhrberg, spoke of the public reaction as a "mob mentality" and said we should "feel collectively ashamed of the way Macsyna King was treated".

She will find scant public support for the idea of national remorse. The extent to which Macsyna was tarred in the public mind was the direct result of Lorraine Smith's attempts to shift suspicion from Kahui to King. That is a perfectly legitimate legal tactic, which Dyhrberg herself would enthusiastically have adopted if she had been assigned the task of defending Kahui.

In any case, and notwithstanding the cruel comments King endured, the prevailing public mood was not a desire to stone her to death, but to see that someone was called to account for the killings. In the weeks and months following, the police inquiry was frustrated by a wall of silence behind which the family was hiding. At that stage, King was being interviewed at length by police but that fact was not made public, and even if it had been it would have made no difference to the public horror.

The tragic fact is that the horror remains. It is to be hoped that King feels some relief about her public exoneration, but that is of no consolation to the twins. More than eight years after their short lives ended, their souls cry out for justice. The week's events have, sadly, brought that no closer.

- Herald on Sunday

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