Rebecca Quilliam is senior reporter at the NZME. News Service office in Wellington.

Couple found guilty of abusing adopted daughter

File photo / NZ Herald
File photo / NZ Herald

A Wairarapa couple have been found guilty of ill-treating and neglecting their adopted daughter.

Russell and Leonie Kennedy were each facing two historical charges relating to a girl aged under 16 in Greytown between 1983 and 1987.

Both pleaded not guilty, but after less than four hours of deliberation this afternoon a jury at the Wellington District Court found the pair guilty of all charges.

Earlier, Crown prosecutor Ian Murray said when the woman, now 31, was a little girl the couple hit her with jug cords and hockey sticks, starved her and sent her to school with no food.

He said Russell Kennedy once set one of the family dogs onto her.

Russell was also accused of holding her under water while bathing her and throwing her into the local pool.

Mr Murray said there was an ongoing and accumulating pattern of abuse over years.

Peter Stevens, appearing for Russell Kennedy said it was an "unfortunate case" and by the age of three, the girl had already been through six or seven other carers.

"That's sad and I think you will probably have a lot of sympathy for her."

But he said the jury would need to put aside that sympathy when deliberating.

The Kennedys offered her a home when they were struggling financially, he said.

He said the woman's adoption was proof of their care for her. They could have kept her on as a foster child and continued to be given money by social services.

"They weren't in it for the money."

Louise Elder, appearing for Leonie Kennedy, said the complainant saw herself as "the girl who wasn't there".

"And that's completely unsurprising when you consider her early life before she was adopted by the Kennedys."

She said the complainant may have been abused by two or three early carers "all by the time she was three and a half".

Because of the time that had passed, many relevant people were no longer around.

"What you've got is a lot of notes, recollections and impressions," she said.

She asked the jury to focus on evidence not conclusions when it came to deliberating and said they shouldn't rely solely on the complainant's memory.

"It's her truth, it's her reality and nothing in this courtroom is ever going to change that, but what I'm suggesting is it's not the real truth."


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