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When Macsyna King sings karaoke, Natural Woman is her signature tune.

And she can really sing.

She commands the stage at one of her locals, Woody's Bar in Manurewa, where karaoke is a serious business with the South Auckland and mainly Maori crowd.

They sing it seven nights a week here. A picture of Sir Howard Morrison hangs on the back wall.

Macsyna is one of the queens, renowned for her version of the Aretha Franklin classic. Her strong, sweet and slightly husky voice is perfect.

"Macs" is usually up there on the big competition nights when they pack shoulder-to-shoulder into Woody's.

Macsyna sings off against the most accomplished vocalists in front of a panel of judges and was a recent winner of a $1500 cash prize

She isn't shy. Her family and friends are in the audience. It's a familiar crowd - people like her, mainly from the downmarket parts of town nearby. They are drinking, smiling, catching up. She stands in front of them, beautiful with her big smile and long black hair.

And Macsyna King, karaoke queen, lets herself go.

'Cause you make me feel, you make me feel, you make me feel like a natural woman ...

Macsyna King has a lot to escape.

Her twin baby sons Chris and Cru Kahui were killed nearly two years ago and she's been one half of the very public debate over who did it ever since.

This week their father, her former partner Chris Kahui, was acquitted of the murder after a jury deliberated for just 10 minutes. It effectively endorsed his defence - that it was Macsyna who killed them. It was a vicious blow in the popularity contest she has long been losing.

She's been attacked as promiscuous. She has convictions for fraud, car conversion and burglary. She is a drinker and admits using drugs.

Evidence in court conveyed an angry, violent woman. The terrible mother who put McDonald's before the dying twins. Their possible killer.

Her failures are public record: six children to three different fathers, two of them dead, one taken by CYFS to foster care, the other three abandoned long ago.

Macsyna King, survivor, has always looked out for number one.

Macsyna Pono King was born into South Auckland's underclass on February 22, 1977. She was named after her father, Mehaka "Mac" King, who had a reputation as a "bad news man" on the city's streets since moving from the Hokianga in the 1950s as part of the early wave of Maori urban drift.

Mac King was a backyard mechanic and renowned ukulele player who could put down a legendary hangi.

He was also violent. His first family disintegrated partly due to his wife-beating.

He'd been in and out of jail, was a gang associate and had a glass eye - a legacy of a beating with a baseball bat.

Macsyna's mother, Faith "Missy" Tahuri, was 20 years his junior when Mac met her on the side of the road after stopping to help fix her car. She had drifted to the city from Wairoa on the East Coast.

Macsyna's middle name, Pono, is the Maori name for Faith - also translated as truth. Mac tried to blend the children from his first family - Robert, Denise and Fiona - with Missy and their first-born Macsyna under the same roof in Mangere.

It never worked. Missy, a drinker, just didn't care and would often leave baby Macsyna in the care of a nine-year-old Fiona while she went out. Mac King stayed violent, always in and out of prison.

Three more children came into this life - Emily, Stuart and Ellen.

Missy once left all of them in an Onehunga bus stop, telling them to wait, but never came back. She eventually left for good with another man.

The older children went their own way, while Macsyna and the four younger ones were sent back to her mother's family in Wairoa.

They didn't come back for Mac King's tangi after he died of a brain tumour in 1991. Missy eked out an alcoholic existence in a Ponsonby state house, a well-known regular at the waterfront Schooner Tavern. In 1992, she died after drinking poison. She was 35.

Macsyna, a child when her mum left and 15 when she died, knows what it's like to be abandoned.

And her life, with four children left to the care of others, is almost a mirror image of the mother she hardly knew, despite having a settled upbringing while in Wairoa.

The King children were raised in the Tahuri clan, a proud Maori family, many of whom worked at the local freezing works.

There was an uncle and aunt they called Mum and Dad. Those who remember Macsyna say she was "totally different" to the one they see in the news today. She was pretty intelligent and did well at Wairoa College, where she met her first partner, tall and handsome Kevin Te Kahu.

Her first child, a boy, Kzchian, was born in 1995. Daughter Nikora arrived two years later. Then 20-year-old Macsyna got a taste of the party life.

Macsyna left Wairoa and Te Kahu for Napier and life as a solo mother. A waitress at Valentines, she loved clubbing and that was where she met her second partner Gerald Ashby. As he recalls it, Macsyna soon started to unravel. She would get others to look after the children while "hitting the piss real hard".

Money he earned would go missing. She'd shout her friends booze and dope.

She would go into shops, get distracted and leave the children in the car. She would sneak out of the window to go clubbing.

Then she started to disappear.

It wasn't all one-way traffic. Macsyna had stays at the Woman's Refuge. Ashby admits beating her.

In the middle of all this they had a daughter, Keani, in 1999.

Ashby says she became increasingly "clever".

He gave police a statement alleging that Macsyna stole $3800 from a relative's kohanga reo by forging a signature, and used it as a deposit to buy a $37,000 Ford XR8 from a dealer.

Ashby also told police that his partner was siphoning money out of their joint account, running up bills in his name for furniture and selling it off.

"She was cunning," says Ashby. "The cops would come for her, she'd go down and be interviewed and turn them on to me."

Then there were her affairs - "heaps of them" - and what he calls her "working girl job" at a strip club.

Ashby says she became a "lousy mother", not violent, "just loose".

Macsyna finally ran off to Huntly with a Black Power associate. Ashby says he snapped, taking her and Keani hostage with a sawn-off shotgun during a chase and stand-off involving 50 officers, 14 police cars and the Eagle helicopter.

It was June 26, 2001 - and the last day Macsyna ever saw any of her first three children.

Te Kahu took over the care of his two, while Ashby's mother looked after Keani until his release from jail for the kidnapping.

The next time they saw her was five years later when the death of the Kahui twins made the television news.

In 2004 Macsyna hooked up with Chris Kahui and was soon looking for, in her words, "some sort of normal family life".

She had been back in Auckland since the kidnapping and had reportedly just finished a short jail sentence.

Macsyna met Kahui through his father William "Banjo" Kahui.

She was 27, Chris was 19.

They moved in together. She was back where her life started in Mangere, leading the same dysfunctional life her parents had.

Her siblings had also gravitated back. Her brother Stuart soon took up with Kahui's sister Mona. Emily was with Pouaka Hepi, a former Black Power member - hard workers setting up their own painting business. Younger sister Ellen had gone off the rails, and was in jail for aggravated robbery, kidnapping and burglary.

They had also caught up again with older half-brother Robert King, who had checked himself into rehab for alcohol and P abuse and had been in and out of jail.

She never rekindled relations with half-sisters Denise and Fiona; with issues dating back to her mother, they are among Macsyna's fiercest critics.

There is no evidence of Macsyna holding down a job although Shane Wenzell, a bankrupt "life coach" now facing Serious Fraud Office charges, claims to haved trained her in administration, sales and cold-calling for 15 months before the twins were born.

Macsyna walked all over Chris, describing how "I would yell the loudest. Swear the loudest. Wouldn't stop until I got my way". She could get physical, kicking him in the shins and slapping his face.

She fell pregnant soon after they met. It was unplanned. Their first son Shayne was born in 2005.

They weren't happy and broke up for a time that September, during which she had a relationship with another man.

Around this time she fell pregnant, unplanned again, this time with the twins. There were doubts about their father. Kahui took her word for it.

Their paternity remains unresolved - he declined a DNA test after they were killed, even after learning of other affairs she had.

The twins, Macsyna said, "were complicated from the outset".

Ten weeks premature, they stayed in hospital for a month and she barely visited them. Staff were worried.

Once the babies were home, she admitted feeling the pressure a week before they were killed. Her solution? She procured the drug P from a massage parlour with Kahui's transsexual brother Chantal.

She said it helped her cope. She told the court she used the drug "once".

MACSYNA'S behaviour when her babies were dying was bizarre.

Told that one had stopped breathing, she did not panic. On the way to the GP she and Chris stopped for McDonalds.

On the way to hospital they popped home first.

Staff said she looked "almost elated" when she finally arrived.

She turned down a ride in the ambulance through to Starship even though the twins may not have survived that journey. Finally, she turned down a bed at Starship's Ronald McDonald House saying: "I don't give a shit. I'm going. I need my sleep."

After the twins died, she did not seem to want to help the police investigation, texting sister Emily that "the pigs have tapped all phones" and telling her to use a pay phone.

As ever, Macsyna King, abandoned in her own life, was looking out for number one.