Family accused of exorcism killing

Agence France-Presse/May 04, 2009

Nine members of a New Zealand family have appeared in court on manslaughter charges after another member died during an indigenous Maori exorcism ceremony.

Janet Moses, 22, drowned in October 2007 when water was poured down her throat as part of the exorcism, known as a makutu.

Nine members of Moses' family pleaded not guilty to manslaughter in a Wellington court as a result of the makutu, or curse-lifting ceremony, in the town of Wainuiomata, near Wellington.

Prosecutor Kate Feltham told the court that Ms Moses' behaviour had changed after her grandmother died, several months before the exorcism.

The curse-lifting ceremony started with prayers but became more intense, with family members shouting "get out" and "leave her alone" in an attempt to purge the evil spirits, Ms Feltham said.

"Several people also leant over Janet, placed their mouths over her eye balls and tried to suck at her eyes in an attempt to remove the curse," she said.

Water was then poured on Ms Moses' face, down her throat and into her eyes while she was restrained during the ceremony, attended by more than 30 people at her grandparents' house.

"At times Janet was restrained while the water was poured over her and if she called out or tried to push those pouring the water away, the restraining simply increased," she said.

During the ceremony, other members of the family were also believed to have become possessed by the curse and were also cleansed.

A 14-year-old girl had her eyes gouged and water poured down her throat, and two people have been charged with injuring her.

Defence lawyer Mike Antunovic said the accused, who cannot be identified, believed Ms Moses was possessed and they were trying to help her.

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