Morgan Tait is the NZ Herald's police reporter.

Forgotten for seven years: Inside the bodies-under-the-bridge murders

In a calf-deep grave under one of New Zealand's busiest traffic interchanges, a mother and her 3-year-old daughter lay forgotten for seven years.

Between the arterial Northern Motorway and Esmonde Rd, the edge of Barry's Point Reserve on Auckland's North Shore is a flourishing wetland.

But nothing ever grew from the dark, dense clay where Kamal Reddy and his uncle dug the graves of Reddy's 25-year-old girlfriend Mubarek "Pakeeza" Yusef and her daughter, Juwairiyah "Jojo" Kalim.

Reddy's uncle, Bal Naidu, 66, was a site foreman and promised if enough rocks were atop the bodies, they would not rise through the mud with tidewaters.

He was right.

It was not until Reddy, 43, unwittingly confessed to strangling Pakeeza in bed before smothering her three-year-old daughter that police were led to their graves.

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The secretly-recorded admission was part of an extensive six-month undercover police operation, which began in April 2014.

The finer details of which were heavily suppressed by Justice Raynor Asher during the trial at the Auckland High Court this month.

Undercover officers spent months gaining the trust of Reddy by inviting him to commit staged criminal acts, until he eventually divulged his own previous offending.

Today, a jury found him guilty of murder.

Crown prosecutor Natalie Walker argued that Reddy's actions were a culmination of a violent relationship -- he had already pleaded guilty to threatening to kill Pakeeza in 2006 and had swung a machete at her ex-husband, Jojo's father, Mohammed Faizal.

He was angry that she had threatened to leave him after a fight in front of his family, broke into her house while she was asleep and, using an iron cord, made sure that she never woke again.

Jojo would have likely outed him to police, so he killed her too - smothering her with a pillow.

Photo taken by an undercover police officer showing Kamal Reddy standing on the spot where he allegedly buried his partner and her child Police. Photo / Supplied
Photo taken by an undercover police officer showing Kamal Reddy standing on the spot where he allegedly buried his partner and her child Police. Photo / Supplied

Reddy's lawyer, Jonathan Krebs, argued that it was not his client who committed the acts, but a mysterious man called "James" whom he said was Pakeeza's actual boyfriend.

"He didn't kill Pakeeza and Jojo. James killed Pakeeza and Jojo," Mr Krebs told the jury.

The only problem with that was Pakeeza had never mentioned James to her family, and Reddy only introduced him after his confession - which, he said, he can't remember making.

Trouble at home

The tragedy of Pakeeza and Jojo's deaths was amplified by the time it took for anyone to report them missing.

Relatives told the Herald of a web of complicated familial and romantic relationships that Pakeeza lived within: Tense situations magnified by child custody battles, cultural clashes, arranged marriages, financial hardships and domestic violence that followed her from her native Fiji to New Zealand.

Pakeeza was often caught in her divorced parents' own conflicts - speaking to one or the other, but rarely at the same time. When they were both involved in her life it usually fuelled more animosity.

Where her nuclear family cracked, extended family tried to compensate.

Throughout the trial Pakeeza's aunty and uncle, Firoz and Samina Mohammed, sat front row of the public gallery. It was the first time they had seen the man accused of killing the woman they treated as their own daughter.

"I feel sorry for Pakeeza, she was one of those children where the father remarried and the mother remarried and the poor, poor girl she was left with nowhere to really go," said her uncle.

The families lived just a few houses away in Otahuhu when Pakeeza moved here with her father in 1996.

"She used to come and visit and play with my daughter Fazmina and Zenny. She was quite close to the girls and the older one she was very, very close to her."

Pakeeza Faizal with her beloved younger cousin Fazmina Mohammed at Long Bay. Photo / Supplied
Pakeeza Faizal with her beloved younger cousin Fazmina Mohammed at Long Bay. Photo / Supplied

A dangerous relationship

Her relationship with Reddy followed the breakdown of her marriage to Jojo's father, Mohammed Faizal.

Known as Faizal Kalim, the pair's marriage was arranged by relatives in Fiji and was formalised in a ceremony at Firoz and Samina's Otahuhu home in 2001.

The couple welcomed Jojo in 2003 and while the child was doted on by both parents, Pakeeza's uncle and father-figure, Firoz Mohammed, described financial and marital problems emerging.

"When she was broke she used to come and ask for money from us, for milk for Jojo," he said.

"Faizal and Pakeeza they used to fight like cat and mouse but it was never violent. During their marriage they had three fights where I had to go and do the mediation.

"Twice, Pakeeza actually left Faizal and came to live with us for a few days and then I went and spoke to Faizal and they settled back in."

Pakeeza with her first husband Mohammed Faizal. Photo / Supplied
Pakeeza with her first husband Mohammed Faizal. Photo / Supplied

In 2006, the arguments got too much for Pakeeza and her mother, Mubarak Rojina Banu, found a place the family to live without Faizal.

It was organised through a man who worked with Ms Banu's new husband, Sanna Ali at a mechanics shop in Otahuhu.

His name was Kamal Reddy.

Reddy and Pakeeza soon began a romantic relationship, and he helped her into her own flat on Juliet by paying the $750 bond.

Jojo attended St Andrew's Chilton Kindergarten around the corner on Vincent St.

Reddy was her emergency contact on the admission form and he would pick her up and bring her lollies. In the weekend he would take her to Chipmunks in Manukau with her mother, they would go shopping and buy Pakeeza jewellery and groceries.

He told colleagues at Automotive Repair Services on Great South Rd, Manukau that he had a pretty new girlfriend with a child.

Kistan Samy said the two were mechanics together.

"He always kept quiet, but you never know what people can do but I never imagined it from him."

"A long time ago I worked with his brother in Fiji so sometimes he would come to my house in Auckland and talk to me. He told me one day that Pakeeza, his girlfriend, is a very pretty girl and that he looked after the baby.

"He even showed me a photo of her but he didn't tell anything what happened to them. He said that she was very pretty but that she took her kid and they lived in Australia somewhere.

"Then he started talking about a new girlfriend."

His ex-boss, Mohammed Kalim Khan, said Reddy was a good employee and never talked about his personal life.

"I couldn't see any problems with him, he just came to work and went home. At the time he didn't have any problems through the courts and I didn't know anything about that until the police came here.

"Everyone was surprised, it was hard to make anything of it. Now we are watching him on the news all the time."

Reddy was the emergency contact on Jojo's admission form at St. Andrews Chilton Kindergarten, Howick. Photo / Michael Craig
Reddy was the emergency contact on Jojo's admission form at St. Andrews Chilton Kindergarten, Howick. Photo / Michael Craig

But, behind closed doors, Reddy was a violent and aggressive man who drank a lot and the relationship spiralled out of control.

Reddy pleaded guilty at the Manukau District Court to threatening to kill Pakeeza on November 3, 2006.

"Although you tried to have a happy relationship together, I'm going to suggest that actually it was a very fraught relationship," said Ms Walker.

"There was a condition on your bail that you were not able to have contact with her. Initially the two of you just ignored that court order while you were trying to have that relationship, but after a while Pakeeza didn't want to have you around anymore."

Just days later, on November 11, 2006, the victim phoned her ex-husband for help.

"She said: 'he's been threatening and I'm scared for my life'," he said.

She texted him the address where she and her daughter were staying with Reddy and the 39-year-old headed over.

"When I got there he was drunk and had a machete - it was quite long - and swung at me but he missed," Mr Faizal said.

"He missed me by about an inch. If I wasn't fast enough he would've taken my head off."

Around Christmas time, Pakeeza began making frequent calls to her mother in Fiji saying that Reddy was beating her.

Pakeezas's mother said the last time she had spoken to her daughter, around the end of 2006, she was clearly unhappy.

"She was always ringing me up," she said. "Whenever she used to phone, she seemed upset."

The exact date of Pakeeza and Jojo's deaths remain unknown, but it is believed to be around the end of 2006 or the start of 2007.

Covertly recorded conversations revealed Reddy describing how he used the cord from an iron that was set up next to the bed he was sharing with Pakeeza.

His girlfriend was asleep and he wrapped the cord around her neck once, tightening it until she stopped breathing.

She did not yell out, she did not struggle, there was no blood.

He then went into the next room where Jojo was also asleep, he smothered her with a pillow.

She did not yell out, she did not struggle, there was no blood.

Wrapping the bodies in a blanket, he put them in his Subaru and called his uncle asking for help to dispose of the bodies.

Naidu agreed to help, and the pair drove around looking for the perfect spot.

They found one in a damp dismal spot under the bridge next to the Takapuna bus exchange that was being constructed at Christmas time in 2006.

They dug a hole, dumped the mother and her daughter inside and filled it back over.

Police investigating the site where Pakeeza and Jojo's remains were found in October 2014. Photo / File
Police investigating the site where Pakeeza and Jojo's remains were found in October 2014. Photo / File

The 300-plus workers who helped construct Smales Farm, opened in 2008 by then Prime Minister Helen Clark, never discovered the sinister secret that lay beneath.

Years passed and no one reported them missing.

'Where's Pakeeza and Jojo?'

Pakeeza continued to receive her benefit from the government and Reddy used the money from her account.

The Board of Trustees chair Miranda Findlay at Jojo's kindergarten said staff remembered Jojo as a "dear little child".

"We are all very sad about what happened," she said.

When Jojo failed to turn up for the 2007 year, staff made enquiries after the family but they were not returned.

"Staff tried to get in touch, but they could not."

That was not unusual as families relocated and changed child care, she said.

Family thought their girls were living happily with a mysterious man who had taken them to a better life.

Pakeeza's cousin and closest friend, Fazmina, said the last time she saw her cousin was in February 2006 when they met at the Sylvia Park shopping mall.

It wasn't completely unbelievable for Pakeeza to cut contact with her family on a whim.

"She was really ambitious and dreamt big things for Jojo," she said. "She always used to say, 'I am going to settle down with a man and leave everything and forget everyone and give Jojo a really good life'.

"So it actually made sense at the time."

The new relationship did not sit well with her Muslim paternal family, as Reddy was Hindu.

"When she left Faizal, I wasn't happy about it," said Firoz. "In our culture, in Muslim culture, it's forbidden to live with a Hindu man and Kamal is a Hindu man.

"And we just suddenly lost all contact with her and that was it. That was the end of everything."

When in reality they were dead, while the man responsible went about his normal life, getting a new girlfriend and bringing his son from his previous marriage to New Zealand.

In 2009 her paternal family began looking for her, said Firoz.

"During my elder daughters 21st birthday that is when we started looking for Pakeeza. We met Rozina [Pakeeza's mother] in Oatahuhu because we wanted to give her an invite to her 21st, and she said that Pakeeza was living in Christchurch with a Palangi.

"Those were her actual words. She said she did not want to know the paternal side of her family. Why would she lie? Why would a mother lie? If she had simply told us, 'I don't know where Pakeeza is,' we would have found another avenue.

"So I thought, well she is a grown up girl she can make up her own decisions."

Then his daughter got engaged.

"In 2012, my daughter was engaged and again she wanted Pakeeza to be part of her engagement so we met Rozina again and she said that Pakeeza was living in North Shore.

"She said that Pakeeza has said not to give us her address and she didn't want to know any family on the father's side. Then in 2013 during the wedding we asked her again for the wedding invitation and that's when she told us she was in Australia."

Firoz Mohammed, uncle of Pakeeza, at home in Otahuhu. Photo / Doug Sherring
Firoz Mohammed, uncle of Pakeeza, at home in Otahuhu. Photo / Doug Sherring

This did not sit well with the family, said Pakeeza's great Aunt, Fata Bibi.

She went to see Rozina.

"I asked her mother where Pakeeza was so many times and she said she was here and there and didn't want to talk to us. She said was with a rich white man on a big farm and all sorts of things.

"One day I just could not believe it anymore, as a mother after seven or eight years of not hearing from your daughter you are worried. It wasn't right, something must have gone wrong with Pakeeza."

Rozina said she was told the same stories by Reddy, that her daughter had left him for another man and they had moved away.

But Ms Bibi not convinced.

"I came home and called my older sister in Australia and she rang [Pakeeza's Father] Yusuf and told him go to Rozina and that's when she went to police."

A grisly discovery

The report in January 2013 led to the covert operation being launched in April the following year and the discovery of the bodies in October.

"It was 4am when Yusuf called me on my cellphone and he was crying. He said, brother I think they have located Pakeeza."

He went to meet his cousin and the police at the burial site.

"We went down to the scene where Jojo and Pakeeza's remains were. It was not a good a scene, a scene no one wants to see. It was only about [calf] deep it wasn't even deep, deep. It was so sad."

Pakeeza's uncle Firoz Mohammed (in blue) supports Jojo's father, Mohammed Faizal (in black) and Pakeeza's father, Mohammed Yusuf, at Takapuna burial site. Photo / File
Pakeeza's uncle Firoz Mohammed (in blue) supports Jojo's father, Mohammed Faizal (in black) and Pakeeza's father, Mohammed Yusuf, at Takapuna burial site. Photo / File

"How on earth could someone just do that to a baby and Pakeeza? Pakeeza was a baby, too. I can still see her in the trees in Fiji and then you just walk under a bridge and see the where your dears once were, left for a period of time and no one knew about it."

Reddy buried the woman in the same clothes they were wearing when he killed them, track pants and a jumper for Pakeeza and Jojo in her nightie.

He didn't even bother to wrap them in a blanket.

"The funeral was an absolute shocker," said Firoz. "Looking at Pakeeza was basically nothing, just bones, the size of a pillow.

"That was the saddest part of the whole thing. I have known Pakeeza from when she was a baby and then burying Pakeeza and Jojo together just like putting a pillow in a huge grave.

"That was the saddest part. We just did it privately."

Pakeeza with Jojo. Photo / Supplied
Pakeeza with Jojo. Photo / Supplied

Nearly ten years after their murders, Pakeeza and Jojo, would now be about 35 and 13.

"Jojo would be in intermediate now and Pakeeza would have grown up into a beautiful, beautiful mother. She always wanted the best for Jojo," he said.

They will never have the chance to reconcile with their family. There will be no photos of them at birthdays, weddings and reunions. They will never meet their new cousins, or be able to visit other relatives in Fiji.

"We have sat here every minute, every day listening to the trial and we are just so thankful for the New Zealand Police, if it wasn't for them we would still not know what happened to the girls.

"There is closure for the family, at least we know a bad person is behind bars and can no longer hurt anyone else."

- NZ Herald

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