Anna Leask

Anna Leask is senior police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

'I know what's going on' - woman at centre of Owen Glenn case

Marja Shaw was inspired to become a firefighter by the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States in 2001.
Marja Shaw was inspired to become a firefighter by the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States in 2001.

The woman at the centre of a controversial assault allegation against Sir Owen Glenn says she is aware of what is being said about her but doesn't want to get into a war of words.

The Weekend Herald spoke to Marja Shaw after Sir Owen's claims this week that her complaint against the multi-millionaire businessman was a case of extortion.

Speaking for the first time since details of Sir Owen's charge in Hawaii in 2002 were made public, Ms Shaw said she was "well aware" of what was being said about her.

She was reluctant to discuss the allegation but was up to date with Sir Owen's comments about her.

"I'm well aware of what's going on in the news down there," she said.

Ms Shaw, who is working as a firefighter after being inspired by the 9/11 terrorist attacks, married her partner, Beth Stowell, in January 2009 and the couple live in Shelton, about 83km from Tacoma.

They have a young daughter named Atley.

The Weekend Herald visited the couple at their plush home in woodlands overlooking Lake Limerick.

Beth Stowell came to the door and understood why questions were being asked of her wife, but said she did not want to say anything.

The fate of the Glenn Inquiry into family violence is still uncertain. At least 27 of the original 38 New Zealand members of its expert think-tank have quit and the board will meet again on Wednesday to decide on the inquiry's future direction.

Some had already left, citing concerns for participants' safety, before the latest claims against Sir Owen plunged the inquiry deeper into controversy.

Hawaiian court documents revealed he was arrested early on October 10, 2002, and charged with intentionally, knowingly or recklessly physically abusing Ms Shaw, a personal assistant to him at the time.

Sir Owen entered a no contest plea to the assault charge in the third degree on October 7, 2003. The Family Court granted the motion to defer and proceedings were deferred for six months.

As of April 29, 2004, Sir Owen had not been convicted of any crimes, and on August 4 that year, Judge Reynaldo D. Graulty threw out the case.

This week, Sir Owen denied assaulting Ms Shaw, and said she was "a case of extortion".

He said that she demanded $300,000 from him, but he paid a settlement of $80,000.

Sir Owen went on to say that on July 1, Ms Shaw reignited the claim, hoping for another payout.

The lawyer who represented Sir Owen, Michael Jay Green, yesterday sent a letter to the Weekend Herald in which he reiterated: "Sir Owen never admitted to any misconduct and/or wrongdoing ... Sir Owen was never convicted and found guilty of anything."

Ms Shaw works at the Tacoma Fire Department, about 30 minutes' drive from Seattle in Washington State. She obtained a degree in law and justice from Central Washington University and was inspired by the September 2001 terrorist attacks to become a firefighter.

During a talk at a US high school in 2011, she said she had dreamed of becoming an astronaut and initially enrolled in the university's flight technology degree, paying her way by working as a carpenter.

But after the 9/11 attacks, she decided on a new path and by age 24, after she graduated and had worked as a volunteer at many fire stations, she was hired as a fulltime firefighter in Tacoma.

The Husky Times, the school's newspaper, said Ms Shaw loved her job, which pays $82,000 ($104,000) a year. She described it as "exhilarating".

She also spoke of attending car crashes and medical callouts, delivering babies and going into burning buildings.


• In tomorrow's Herald on Sunday: Marja Shaw's view on Owen Glenn's troubled inquiry into domestic abuse.

- NZ Herald

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