A jury has just retired to deliberate in the trial of a South Auckland woman charged with murdering her partner after years of domestic abuse and violence.

Joseph Michael Ngapera died in November 2018 after being stabbed twice in the chest.

The first blow pierced his ribs, lung and heart.

His partner Karen Anne Ruddelle admits she is responsible for Ngapera's death, but denies the charge of murder.


Rather, she claims she acted in self defence trying to protect herself and her teenage son, and was suffering from social entrapment - effectively battered women's syndrome - after a lifetime of domestic violence - including at the hands of Ngapera.

Murder, manslaughter or self defence: Crown and defence close in domestic violence murder trial
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The trial, in the High Court at Auckland before Justice Matthew Palmer, is now in its ninth day.

The jury heard evidence from 40 Crown witnesses including Ruddelle's son, who was in the house the night of the alleged murder and tried to revive Ngapera.

They also heard defence evidence from Ruddelle herself and several domestic violence experts who spoke about coercive control and social entrapment - formerly referred to as battered women's syndrome.

And they heard how Ruddelle, after a life of abusive relationships and trauma, had symptoms of PTSD.

If found guilty of murder Ruddelle faces life in prison.

The jury also has an option of finding Ruddelle guilty of the lesser alternative charge of manslaughter.


However, if they do not believe the Crown has proved its case, and Ruddelle was acting in defence of herself and or her son, they may acquit her entirely.

Yesterday, Crown prosecutor Yelena Yelavich and defence lawyer Shane Cassidy made closing addresses.

Yelavich said the Crown maintained Ruddelle was drunk, angry and "emboldened" when she stabbed Ngapera and was not acting in self defence.

She said the woman could have simply called police or walked away if she felt she or her family were in danger.

Further - there was no clear pattern of coercive control from Ngapera.

"It is not a defence to murder or to manslaughter to say that your partner has previously been violent against you.

"The Crown's case remains the same as it was when it opened the case ... the defendant was not defending herself or her son when she stabbed her partner ... The Crown says that the actions of the defendant were simply not reasonable in the circumstances as she believed them to be.

"The defendant's actions were excessive - when the defendant stabbed Mr Ngapera, she intended to kill him or at the very least she intended to cause him bodily injury."

Cassidy said the Crown could not possibly prove its case beyond reasonable doubt.

He said the defence evidence was "overwhelming" and it was clear that when Ruddelle killed Ngapera she was terrified for her life - and her son.

"No, she couldn't have done things differently," he said."The reality is this - if Joe had punched [her son] ... as he'd done to her, then [her son's] life could have ended in front of her, while she stood and watched, and did nothing.

"The decision that Karen made in that split second, was not to take that risk - the decision was instinctive."

This morning Justice Palmer summed up both sides for the jury, and directed them on their role.

"The decision is yours," he said.

"It is for you to decide, using your common sense.

"The verdict for the charge of murder and the alternative of manslaughter is simply guilty or not guilty - you do not have to provide explanation."

The jury - made up of eight women and four men - then retired at 10.40am.

The Herald will report on the verdict when it is delivered to the court.


If you're in danger now:

• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours of friends to ring for you.
• Run outside and head for where there are other people.
• Scream for help so that your neighbours can hear you.
• Take the children with you.
• Don't stop to get anything else.
• If you are being abused, remember it's not your fault. Violence is never okay

Where to go for help or more information:

• Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633 www.2shine.org.nz
• Women's Refuge: Free national crisis line operates 24/7 - 0800 refuge or 0800 733 843 www.womensrefuge.org.nz
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and middle eastern women and their children. Crisis line 24/7 0800 742 584
• It's Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450 www.areyouok.org.nz