Steve Braunias reports from the murder trial of a woman who allegedly killed another woman with a knife at a "pamper party" in west Auckland.

There were nine women at the party where Carly Stewart was stabbed in the head, and three of them grabbed their phones and rang triple one.

The operator said to the first caller, "What's your address?"

"Forty! No. What?"

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"I need you to slow down and tell me the address."

She shouted, "47 School Road, Te Atatu!"

Another caller was exact: "Te Atatu South."

The third caller said, "Henderson. Yeah. Henderson."

Everyone was panicking, blood was gushing out of Carly's face and another three of her friends rushed to her side with towels, but each of the callers had it right. Te Atatu is both Te Atatu North and Te Atatu South, the two watery suburbs on either side of state highway 16, and Henderson stands for pretty much everything across West Auckland, as the centre of the proud, hard-out territories of Kelston, Glen Eden, Glendene, Sunnyvale, Ranui, Massey, and the two Te Atatus.

It's a zone of $2 Shops and laundromats, netball and kapa haka, TENANTS PARKING ONLY and 59 food joints along Lincoln Rd.

Te Atatu South is on a rise above the Whau River, and the stylish brick house made famous in TV series Outrageous Fortune is on Royal View Rd. Until it closed down last year there was an awesome cafe on Vodanovich Rd, Dangerous Chocolates, specialising in dangerous chocolates. School Rd rolls downhill towards the grey-green water of Henderson Creek.

"Beautiful house," said Corrin Phillip of 47 School Rd, picturing the two trees reaching for the sky in the front yard, a garage, picture windows. "Yeah," she said, smiling to herself in the witness stand at the High Court of Auckland this week. "Nice big house."

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Even nicer inside; the court was shown a video roaming around the lounge and dining room and kitchen and hallway, and it was very tastefully decorated, with timber floors, bookshelves, a red couch against the wall. It was tidy and clean, there were grapes and fresh bananas in the kitchen, paintings.

The first question Crown prosecutor Scott McColgan asked her was, "Are you known to your friends as Little Corrin?"

"Yeah!", she said, and laughed. "Little Corrin! That's me!" She was quite loud and also on the verge of tears. Yes, she said to McColgan, her friend Corrine Stewart was known as Big Corrine.

Big and Little both gave evidence; Big wasn't that big, although Little really was very little, a tiny, passionate woman, who said to the court registrar and the judge through tears, "Nah. It's okay. I'm good."

Anna Browne is charged with the murder of Carly Stewart. Photo / Peter Meecham
Anna Browne is charged with the murder of Carly Stewart. Photo / Peter Meecham

As well as Little Corrin and Big Corrine, Corrine's sister Patricia, Emmanuelle Sinclair, Helen Wahitapu and Joann Daniela gave evidence.

They were friends, more than that. They were Maori women in their early to late 30s and they loved each other with a fierce loyalty. They called each other girls, sometimes ladies, also sisters: "The sisterhood. That's us."

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They knew each other as children and now they were mothers of young children, most of them at primary school, mostly girls. They took over the lower courtroom floor of the High Court this week and kept each other close.

They were all at 47 School Rd on October 15 last year, a Saturday afternoon, for a pamper party - nails and lashes.

It was streamed live on Facebook, and parts of it were played in court. It looked like a brilliant time. There was a lot of laughter, bottles of Jim Beam and 42 Below, a bowl of guacamole next to a roll of paper towels; a beautician had set up a table in the lounge, and there was Little Corrin, turning to the camera, and saying, "Yay! I'm getting my nails done!"

She said in court, "It was a good day. It was exciting seeing each other, and we're quite loud girls. I was really, really excited to be going. I'd never gotten my nails done before in my life, and I was happy to be doing it with my sisters."

McColgan said, "Who was there?"

She named her friends, and then paused. "And," she said. She turned to her left, and looked past the media bench towards a tall, striking woman with high hair sitting between two security guards.

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"And." Her voice had got louder, and she cried. "And her," she said, and pointed at the woman. "Anna. Anna was there."

Anna Eiao Browne, 36, has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Carly Stewart, who she stabbed to death at the Saturday afternoon party at around about 4pm.

Defence lawyer Marie Dyhrberg told the jury in her brief opening address that Browne did not have murderous intent.

The trial is set at an all-women party - there were four kids there too, all girls - and the events being described are about gender, also race. Joann Daniela told the court, "Anna was an outsider coming into our circle."

But there was another woman at the party who hardly anyone knew. "A white lady turned up," said Little Corrin.

"I was the only white girl there," said Justine Evans. "The odd one out."

Police guard the scene on School Rd, Te Atatu, west Auckland where Carly was killed. Photo / Greg Bowker
Police guard the scene on School Rd, Te Atatu, west Auckland where Carly was killed. Photo / Greg Bowker

The sisterhood, that tight, protective group of friends for life, acted out the party in court this week. Justine Evans talked about it too, and the jury was shown police interviews with the four little kids ("Then the cops come and arrested the lady").

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The party started at about 1pm. Everyone said it was great, and it looked pretty hilarious on the livestream. The kids were on the trampoline, the beautician was doing nails and lashes.

Patricia Stewart, who wore bright blue nail polish in the witness stand, said she left the party to drop off her nephew, and came back again just after 3pm.

"The mood had changed," she said. "It felt bad. I knew something had happened but I didn't know what."

Justine Evans, "the white lady", had been introduced to Anna Browne. She said in court, "I could tell she didn't like me. Looked me up and down. Said something about me being white, and didn't like the way I was dressed...I had on a skirt." Evans is a small, slender woman. "She implied I was too fancy. Up myself."

But Browne also took an instant dislike to another guest who was the last to arrive. Joann Daniela talked about how she saw the party livestreaming on Facebook: "I was a little jealous, actually! So I just pretty much self-invited myself."

She took her two daughters for lunch at McDonald's in Kelston, and bought two bottles of cider for the party. She parked outside 47 School Rd on the front lawn. Guests saw her from the front window, and called out, "Hey sister! Come in, come in!"

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She hugged her friends, and was introduced to Anna Browne. "She didn't want to know me so I was like, 'F**k you, too.'"

Joann wore a Nike Air jacket to court, and moved with the confident, athletic grace of a sportswoman. She said when they were introduced again, a little later, Browne seemed friendlier.

But things got out of control. Browne continued to take exception to "the white lady", so Emmanuelle Sinclair, who hosted the party and knew Browne, took her into a kids bedroom with bunks and an awesome picture of Biggy Smalls on the wall, to try to calm her down.

The beautician packed up her table, and left.

Guests heard a loud thump, and Browne yelling : "F****n white teke!"

Crown prosecutor Scott McColgan said to Helen Wahitapu: "What does 'teke' mean?"

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And there followed an educational conversation between a Maori woman and a man of colour. McColgan has just returned from visiting his wife's family in Toronto: he lay in the sun until his skin was roasted so deeply, evenly dark that he appeared in court looking like Lawrence of Arabia.

Helen Wahitapu, who has a dry, matter of fact manner, said: "Vagina."

"And what do you take from that?"

"That someone was being angry with a white teke."

"Do you know why anyone would be angry with a white teke?"

"No."

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There was another thump inside the bedroom. The door was closed, and it was obvious someone inside was trying to keep it shut, but Joann used her strength to push it open. Anna Browne jumped back into the room. Other guests came in to see what was going on, including Carly Stewart.

"Cuz," she said, to Browne. "What the hell are you doing? You've got to calm down, cuz."

They hugged. "It looked like Carly had it under control," said Joann. The others left, some to the kitchen, others to calm their nerves with a cigarette on the deck. Then they heard noises in the hallway outside the bedroom.

Carly and Anna Browne had got held of each other by the scuff of their necks. Joann said she heard Carly say to her, "You f****n bitch. This is a f****n family home, how f****n dare you?"

Patricia Stewart took Carly's hand, and said to her cousin, "Don't worry about her. Just leave her."

Joann was there, too, and had roughly the same advice: "Cuz, f**k her. She's f****n nothing."

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Carly said, "You know what? I'm going to be the bigger person and walk away."

She went into the lounge, and tried to laugh it off. "I'm not scared of her," she said.

Joann was with her. She saw Browne walk in from the kitchen. She had her hands behind her back. She walked straight towards Carly, quite slowly, her eyes fixed on her, and whispered: "Carly."

Carly said, "Yeah, what?"

Guests out on the deck thought Browne punched her. Joann thought that, too. But Little Corrin was right beside Carly, and she saw.

"I saw," she told the court, and stopped. She clutched at a tissue. "I saw...I saw Anna walk in. I saw Anna walk in. She walked straight up to Carly, and lifted her arm. The right arm came up in the air and BOOM, she stabbed her right in the face. We were family and we were standing all next to each other and I saw my sister hold her face and I saw the knife come out."

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Police and expert witnesses will appear for the prosecution on Monday.

Marie Dyhrberg's cross-examination has been very light, not much more than confirming from guests that Browne was spilling her drinks; the defence might be able to commence Wednesday.