The girl claims she was a teenager when alleged sexual abuse by her uncle began while she was on holiday in New Zealand. Photo / 123rf
WARNING: This article discusses sexual abuse and may be upsetting to some readers.
A jury must decide if an elderly man is guilty of sexually assaulting his niece over two decades from the time she was a teenager, or whether they had a consensual affair as the uncle claims.
The Far North man has been on trial in the High Court at Whangārei this week where he has defended five charges of sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection, six charges of rape, one charge of an indecent act on a child under 12, and one charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice.
The defendant, who fathered two children with the woman including a daughter he is also accused of sexually assaulting, has name suppression to protect the identities of his niece and daughter.
The woman alleges the abuse first began when she came to New Zealand for a holiday as a teenager and was sexually assaulted by her uncle during a family trip to Scotts Point.
She claimed he then raped her in a Kaiwaka hotel on his way to take her to the airport.
The teenager returned to her uncle’s house months later after he allegedly lured her back to his remote New Zealand farm with the promise of a job.
It was the Crown case that for the next 20 years, the man raped her on various occasions while she lived in the home he shared with his wife and while working on the farm with him.
It was also alleged the uncle set up a marriage for her with an acquaintance, and after the pair were married the men would tie her up and take turns raping her. Her husband has since passed away.
The woman eventually had two children with her uncle and their young daughter made a video statement to police in 2020 that her father had been sexually abusing her also.
However, when the child was called to give evidence this week, she could not recall any details.
The Crown alleged the children were the result of the man’s longstanding sexual abuse of the woman but the defence said the offending never occurred when she was a teenager, and that years later when she was an adult they began an unconventional consensual relationship.
When the woman gave evidence she said it was always her goal to live in New Zealand and that was why she kept returning.
“When the abuse started I thought, ‘Eventually it’s going to stop’. But it didn’t stop. It was continuous,” she said.
She claimed her uncle used Viagra, and that it had a distinctive sound every time he popped a pill.
“That sound, every time I heard him open a pack I thought … he’s going to try it on with me,” she said under cross-examination.
In closing statements, Crown prosecutor Geraldine Kelly said the defendant used his niece as his “sexual plaything” because he was no longer intimate with his wife and was in a position of power.
“He controlled her when she got there and did whatever he wanted to do … He was used to getting what he wanted,” Kelly said.
“The defendant wanted her there at his beck and call for sex. It is not (her) that is besotted. He is the one who decided she is going to be his.
“They did not begin an affair. He’s just made that up so he can explain away his daughter. It’s a lie.”
Defence lawyer Martin Hislop claimed the niece would flirt with his client, and send him love letters until one day, when they were adults, “one thing led to another”.
The court also heard how the woman had owned a business with her uncle, had a joint bank account, and would travel overseas with him.
Hislop questioned why the woman continued to return to her alleged abuser and put to the jury it was because she was fixated on her uncle.
“She wanted you to believe he was her pimp. It doesn’t sit right,” Hislop said to the jury.
“People would have known what was going on. She had an affair with a man who is related to her.
“Putting the pieces of the puzzle together, they don’t fit.”
The jury was released for the weekend and will return for deliberations on Monday before Justice Kiri Tahana.
Shannon Pitman is a Whangārei based reporter for Open Justice covering courts in the Te Tai Tokerau region. She is of Ngāpuhi/ Ngāti Pūkenga descent and has worked in digital media for the past five years. She joined NZME in 2023.