A jury has been shown a family in turmoil – in a video-link with a witness overseas – in the second week of a Christchurch District Court trial where the Crown is alleging violent abuse of two boys and an elderly man.
The witness, a woman called to give evidence for the defence, had her motives challenged in cross-examination by Crown prosecutor Kathy Basire.
The witness’ woman relative is on trial and she told the court through an interpreter that she came to New Zealand in 2005, and stayed for 11 months. She stayed at the relative’s home in Christchurch, and in that time never saw the woman hitting the boys. Afterwards, the boys had visited her on holiday almost every year.
Crown prosecutor Kathy Basire told her she had heard that physical punishment of children in her country was not uncommon. “Not that much,” she replied. She said children were not hit with sticks – it was not allowed.
The witness said she had disowned the boys’ mother – who is another relative – “because she had done wrong things in my family”.
She preferred to believe the word of the woman on trial rather than the boys’ mother, or the boys themselves. She said the woman had never hit the boys but had looked after them in a very loving manner.
She denied that she felt indebted to the woman on trial, and would lie for her, because the woman had paid for her house in the country where she lives.
Family and friends are being called as defence witnesses to challenge the Crown evidence of abuse.
The Crown closed its case at lunchtime on the sixth day of the trial of the 60-year-old woman who faces 29 charges. She denies charges of assault, assault using various household items as weapons, and a charge of poisoning – forcing a boy to eat chilli peppers as punishment.
The boys have alleged that heated spoons or a poker were put into their mouths by the woman, who has name suppression.
The woman’s son, aged 34, told the court that he had lived in the lounge at the family home, before moving into a sleep-out once it was built. He saw the two boys almost every day in the years when he lived there. He got on well with the boys, who called him “Uncle”.
He never saw anything between his mother and the boys that caused him concern. He never saw her be violent towards the boys. Once, when he saw the younger boy with his arm in a sling, the boy told him he had been pushed by another boy at school.
He would see them playing, or doing their homework. They had plenty of toys, and birthday parties. They had friends over, he said, contradicting the boys’ evidence. One boy had told the court: “There was never a good day.”
The witness acknowledged he did not spend a lot of time with people from the household, but he also alleged one of the boys had lied in some of his evidence. He did not have much to do with his mother, and for some time he had not known that she had been charged.
A security guard told of becoming friends with the family after the 2011 earthquake, when he was manning a shower block in the area. He said there was no tension in the house, and he never saw anything that caused him concern.
The defence case is continuing in the trial before Judge Alistair Garland a jury.