Anger remains for Karla's friends

By FRANCESCA MOLD and SCOTT INGLIS

On Churton Rd in Taita, the anger against Paul Dally still runs deep.

Harry and Joyce Hewitt have lived in the street for decades. They were there when Karla Cardno, her mother Veronica, brother George and stepfather Mark Middleton moved into the small wooden house next door.

Karla was 4 at the time.

"We watched her grow up from the age of 4 to 13, to such an attractive young lady," Mrs Hewitt recalls. "She had the most infectious chuckle you'd heard. She was such a bright, bubbly girl.

"What happened to her was terrible. We'll never forget it."

On May 26, 1989, Karla Cardno grabbed her brother's silver and black BMX bike and headed for the Taita shops just a few hundred metres away.

The Hutt Valley 13-year-old bought a drink, three ice creams and a newspaper before beginning the journey home in the rain.

But she never made it.

Instead, neighbour Paul Dally, a violent man who had had his eye on her for some time, decided to attack.

He pursued a terrified Karla around the shopping centre, eventually snatching her. Cutting through a sidestreet, he dragged her 170m to his home.

Karla's mother had become worried when she did not return home and 20 minutes later she found the bike and the drink across the road from the shops.

What unfolded was every parent's worst nightmare. Karla's family and friends searched frantically for her in the days that followed as a police abduction inquiry began.

What the family and police did not know was that as they scoured Churton Rd, Dally watched them out of his window, raping and sodomising Karla in the upstairs bedroom he used to share with his partner.

Ironically, Mark Middleton's father, Paul, knocked on Dally's door during one of those searches but did not get a reply.

Dally dumped Karla - naked, bound and gagged - into his car boot and drove her to Pencarrow, burying her alive in a 1m grave.

For the next six weeks her body lay undisturbed. Early in July, police arrested Dally for her murder and the next day found her body.

Former detective Garry Orr described her grave at the time as "one of the loneliest places in the world. All you had was the breakers and the seagulls. I thought, what a horrible place for a girl to end her life."

Dally, born in 1961, was adopted at birth. He grew up a loner, frustrated that he knew nothing of his background. He eventually discovered his family in Taumarunui.

He married but the relationship lasted only a year and he then set up house with another woman, with whom he had three children.

They bought a house in Churton Rd, just a few hundred metres from Karla's home. A month before Karla was killed, Dally's partner left him because he beat her.

On March 8, 1990, Dally pleaded guilty in the High Court at Wellington to murdering Karla and was sentenced to life imprisonment. He was to be eligible for parole after 10 years.

But the grief of Karla's family was unimaginable and the seeds of what was to happen later on were sewn as Dally was led from the dock.

A furious Mark Middleton lunged forward and shouted "you'll f****** get yours."

That anger continued to eat away at Middleton over the next decade while Dally served his time at Auckland's Paremoremo prison.

In August 1999, just before Dally was up for parole for the first time, Middleton exploded.

The Wanganui man told journalists he would crucify Dally on his release and repeated similar threats to police.

"I want his life from him and that means you either keep him in for life, or I'll take his life," he told Detective Constable Susan O'Neill.

He said he had been planning to kill Dally for 10 years and that the public needed to be protected.

"If I have to go and spend 12 years or whatever in prison to make sure he doesn't come out and move in next door to you, then I'll do it for free."

Middleton was eventually arrested on five charges of threatening to kill and convicted on three of those in the Auckland District Court this month.

Yesterday, he was given a suspended jail sentence.

Back in Taita, the friends and neighbours of Karla's family are still horrified by her murder.

Several residents spoken to yesterday, including one of Karla's best friends, could not bring themselves to talk about it again.

One elderly woman said Middleton's threats had simply reflected what most of the community still felt.

"Let's just say if Dally turned up here again, he wouldn't last long."

Herald Online feature: Middleton and the murderer

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