A Wainuiomata woman killed during a botched exorcism had been acting like a lion and speaking in "puzzles" after being possessed by spirits from a stolen statue, the High Court at Wellington was told yesterday.

The Crown yesterday finished presenting its five-week-long case against the family of Janet Moses for the 22-year-old woman's October 2007 death.

Nine people, including five aunts and an uncle, were charged with manslaughter after water poured onto Ms Moses' face to lift a makutu, or curse, got into her lungs.

In a videotaped police interview, the dead woman's aunt, co-accused Angela Orupe, said her niece had been "fighting with her grandmother, acting like a lion and trying to claw her".

The makutu targeted her cousin, who took the statue, but affected Ms Moses because she was weaker, Orupe said. She described the lion as an "ugly statue", about 60cm high and "very, very old".

Two family members stole it from outside a Greytown pub after a drinking session.

After they brought the statue home, the family's children began getting sick and were unsettled, she said.

Following advice from a kaumatua in Porirua, the family drove in a hikoi, or convoy, to return the statue to the place it was stolen from.

On the drive back, one of the cars got a puncture and had to pull over - violating the instruction the family had to leave and return to the grandmother's house together, she said.

That night, family members reported Ms Moses speaking in "puzzles" and having a restless night, Orupe said.

"Things were coming out of her mouth - saying the same things - 'money', 'the funeral', 'the hits'. We couldn't get her to sleep."

She said Ms Moses had spirits in her eyes that looked "like jellyfish - slimy little things".

In the ceremony, which lasted several days, the family had poured litres of water into Ms Moses' eyes to lift the makutu, until she began convulsing. Several of the whanau present attempted CPR.

"You honestly had to be there. To think this sort of thing could happen in this day and age," she told Detective Mike Philpott.

She questioned his assumption there was a "correct process" for exorcism, saying it was whatever her elders said it was.

The nine accused, who have all pleaded not guilty, are John Tahana Rawiri, 49, Georgina Aroha Rawiri, 50, Tanginoa Apanui, 42, Hall Jones Wharepapa, 46, Orupe, 36, Gaylene Tangiohororere Kepa, 44, Aroha Gwendoline Wharepapa, 48, Alfred Hughes Kepa, 48, and Glenys Lynette Wright, 52. The Crown begins its closing address today.

- NZPA