Five years ago this week a Taupo schoolboy brutally
murdered a Scottish tourist. Now a local clergyman is trying
to work with both their families to find hope for the future.
Andrew Laxon, of The New Zealand Herald, reports.
Thursday, January 17, 2008. On a warm summer's night in
Taupo, the bars and restaurants along the lakefront were
buzzing as crowds poured in for the international A1 Grand
Prix motor race that weekend. Scottish backpacker Karen Aim
joined her friends for a few drinks at nearby Mulligan's pub,
where her Irish flatmate Collette Martin was working behind
Life was looking up for the 26-year-old from the remote
Orkney Islands, who first visited New Zealand in 2006, fell
in love with the country and came straight back the following
year to live and work in Taupo. A passionate artist, she
found a job in a local glass-blowing factory and a flat
within walking distance of town.
She was outgoing, fun-loving and, in the words of her New
Zealand flatmate Lisa Hughes, the kind of girl ''you met and
fell in love with''. That night she and her friends stayed in
Mulligan's until after midnight, before moving on to a couple
of other backpacker bars. Aim left just before 2am, walked
past the cheap ethnic restaurants in Tuwharetoa St and ducked
into the BP Service Station on the corner to buy a pie.
A security camera shows her walking out at 2.04am. It was the
last time she was seen alive.
As she walked home, 14-year-old Jahche (pronounced Jaa-chay)
Broughton rode his retro chopper-style bike into the grounds
of Taupo-nui-a-tia College, took out a baseball bat and began
smashing windows and glass doors in a furious rage. He was a
local boy from Nukuhau, a poor, predominantly Maori suburb
not far from the town centre. Friends said he liked to quiff
his gelled hair, show off his diamond earring and brag about
his girlfriends on Bebo.
Police youth aid officers also knew him well and it was not
the first time he'd been out in the early hours of the
morning causing trouble. Aim would have heard the noise as
she reached the top of Ruapehu St and looked across the Spa
Rd car yards to the school. Her normal route home was to cut
across the college grounds, bringing her close to Broughton
just as the school alarm sounded.
Apparently realising he had been spotted, he jumped on his
bike, still holding the baseball bat, and followed her down
the street to an intersection just three houses away from her
modest brick and tile flat. Outside the Happy Days Early
Learning Centre, he smashed the bat into the left side of her
face, making her fall over backwards. As she lay on the
ground with her head on the concrete footpath, Broughton
brought the bat down again, even harder this time, smashing
the bones of her face and mouth and fracturing her skull.
A few minutes later Constable Matthew Barton was walking down
Waikato St, looking for the vandals who had caused so much
damage to the school. He found Aim's body lying in a pool of
blood. At Taupo Hospital she was pronounced dead on arrival.
A VIDEO shows Karen Aim hurtling into space on a tandem
skydive to the music of Tom Petty's Free Falling. Her smiling
face fills the screen, then zooms away as the chute opens
high above Lake Taupo on a bright, sunny day. Aim's parents
Brian and Peggy and her brother Alan watched the video with
about 300 other mourners on a winter's day in East Mainland
Church in Holm, the small Orkney village off the northern tip
of Scotland where Aim grew up. The church is a grey,
barn-like building with thick walls to keep out the cold.
Brian, a local builder, is an elder there.
Inside, the Rev Miriam Gross read a prayer from the Aim
''We pray for the person or persons who fatally injured
Karen. Forgive the pain brought over us by this taking of
Karen's life and forgive their family as well.''
Half a world away at a packed memorial service at St Paul's
Union Church in Taupo, mourners heard the same prayer and the
Rev John Howell echoed the message.
''Those who committed this murder must feel scared and
afraid,'' he said.
''Life must be hell for them, hiding and waiting. I want to
say to them, it's time for you to have courage.
''Have the courage to accept the forgiveness offered by the
Aim family and then come and share your secret with the
The memorial service marked the start of a connection between
the two communities. Karen's boss at the Lava Glass Blowing
Studio, Christine Robb, donated a glass vase to the Aim
family and a Taupo-based Air New Zealand international pilot,
Hugh De Lautour took it to Orkney, ensuring the vase had its
own seat on the plane from Heathrow onwards.
Mr Howell carried on the connection, with help from the Taupo
District Council and local Rotary group, by establishing an
arts scholarship in Karen's memory. The first completed work
was a sculpture by Taupo-nui-a-tia student Kate Bevan. It was
a white female torso in an exaggerated hourglass shape, made
of wire and papier mache and wrapped in bandages.
Suede leather rosettes covered the neck and breast one bright
red for anger - and a fishtail plait ran down the middle,
opening at the bottom to symbolise mourners letting go their
In September this year Mr Howell took the sculpture to Orkney
and presented it to the East Mainland congregation. Then he
told them how he had used it to talk to the teenage boy who
Halfway through their first conversation, Howell put a photo
of the Kate Bevan sculpture on the table in front of Jahche
Broughton in the visiting room at Waikeria Prison.
''I thought to myself, `he's either going to engage with this
or tell me to mind my own business','' Mr Howell says.
''He took it seriously. And that was a good thing, because it
means he's starting to engage with the story, rather than
Broughton had remained an impassive figure throughout his
court appearances, showing no emotion and further agonising
the Aim family by trying to change his plea to not guilty,
until he realised the evidence against him was overwhelming.
He admitted remorse through his lawyer - a necessary step for
any defendant seeking a reduced prison sentence - but
insisted throughout he was only an accomplice to the real
murderer, a mysterious Mongrel Mob figure called Bryan.
Broughton was sentenced to life imprisonment with no chance
of parole for at least 12 and a-half years, the judge
dismissing any suggestion another was involved.
It was not a promising start for Mr Howell but he felt the
sculpture might succeed where words could not. Last year he
worked through the prison chaplain to ask Broughton if he
would like to know about Bevan's sculpture before its public
On his second visit to Te Ao Marama, the Maori focus unit at
Waikeria Prison, near Te Awamutu, Mr Howell says Broughton
opened up to him about his life at the time of the murder. He
can't repeat the details, not just because of professional
confidentiality, but because they would put Broughton and
others in danger. But he admits he was badly shaken.
''I was in tears by the end of that second visit. It just hit
me in the guts. Can't say more than that. He told me the
circumstances of his life and what led to the murder. I was
the second person he has told (the first was the prison
psychologist). On the third visit I obtained his consent to
share that story with the Aims.''
Mr Howell says he knows criminals often tell lies about their
past and that Broughton has told more than his fair share so
far. He says he's sceptical about some aspects of his story
but most of it rings true.
''There'll be people ... who say `why the hell are you
He answers himself by quoting Jesus from Matthew 25 in the
Bible, ''I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison
and you visited me. Truly I tell you, just as you did it to
one of the least of these who are members of my family, you
did it to me.''
Mr Howell explains he goes partly because he sees it as a
duty and a privilege.
''I do it quite deliberately to say `we haven't forgotten
you, you're part of our prayer and concern'. That message on
its own does two things. One thing is it says to the Taupo
community, `this is not just about Karen Aim, it's about
Jahche'. And the second thing is it's saying to Jahche `I'm
interested in what happens to you while you're in prison and
when you get out'.''
Mr Howell, who is police chaplain for the Taupo-Turangi area,
public discussion about justice in New Zealand has been
hijacked by the Sensible Sentencing Trust, which has
generated a climate of fear among the public and pushed
politicians into taking more populist policies based purely
''They're literally saying `lock 'em up and throw away the
key'. There needs to be a priority on rehabilitation and
ensuring that when [prisoners] return to society they're not
just going to go through the whole process again so they're a
lifelong criminal - but rather they can re-enter society in
some way and we can start to value them for what they can
give to us.
''People in this category are usually the products of a
dysfunctional family but what is it about the family
environment that's creating these kinds of monsters? What is
it about our society that is failing to support families to
come to terms with these kinds of issues?''He argues
whether people like it or not, Broughton will probably be out
of prison some day as a relatively young man with much of his
ahead of him. Broughton will be 28 when he becomes eligible
for parole in 2021.
Broughton's mother Eugenie got pregnant at 16 when she was
living at home in her family's green, single-storey
weatherboard house opposite an overgrown sports ground in
Nukuhau. Her parents, Monty and Moana, are members of the
local Ratana church - Broughton was arrested for Karen's
murder on a bus trip with his family to the church's annual
conference - and heavily involved in local Maori immersion
It's a tough neighbourhood: neighbours are friendly when this
reporter calls just before 9am, many working-aged adults and
school-aged children are still at home and one mother, who
smells strongly of alcohol, is on to her third beer.
Eugenie says she had no idea she was even pregnant but she
was happy to have a baby boy. She called him Jahche Te Manawa
Kawa Broughton - ''Jah'' for Jehovah, ''che'' for an Indian
chief, ''Te Manawa'' meaning strong-hearted. Eugenie says
Jahche knows who his birth father is but he's never been part
of his life. Until they split up recently, her former partner
was his real father.
The 37-year-old says Broughton loved music, sport - he was a
Bay of Plenty hockey rep - and even school, which he attended
regularly. Asked how he could go from such a happy childhood
to committing a brutal murder, she replies, ''I've never
really got the answer to that one. At the end of the day I've
accepted that he's taken responsibility for his involvement,
for his actions. As a mother, though, I can only take the
experience out of it and help my other children.''
She says she doesn't want to blame his behaviour solely on
alcohol and drugs because there were other factors involved.
''I could say that it's hormone-related. It's a whole lot of
things really. It's society, it's our lifestyle. I don't
know, I think maybe I spoilt him too much. Because all he
ever got was love and support. Still does.''
The court heard a similar story about Broughton's upbringing,
which he described as ''awesome''. His mother and other
family members were there to support him after his arrest and
continue to visit him each month in prison.
But in an earlier interview with 60 Minutes soon after his
sentencing, Eugenie admitted her son was struggling
academically, dropping in and out of schools and getting into
increasing trouble with the police, including for truancy and
about the age of 12, ''he was going through a bit of a
rebellious stage''. Child, Youth and Family intervened and he
was placed in a foster home with her family's agreement. It
lasted only two months - ''we missed him too much and brought
Other evidence suggests by this stage Broughton's life was
going off the rails. A cousin told the court he was drinking
alcohol and smoking cannabis from the age of 12 and police
found a stash of pornographic videos and magazines under his
bed when they searched the family house.
By the age of 14 he was frequently drinking and roaming the
streets at night - a pattern of behaviour Taupo coroner
Wallace Bain said he wanted to raise ''head-on'' in his
inquest finding last November as ''a classic example of what
can happen when young people are not properly supervised''.
One of Broughton's regular drinking buddies was his
''uncle'', Leigh Herewini, his aunt's former partner and a
security guard who helped Broughton cover up the savage
bashing of another young woman about a fortnight before he
Zara Schofield was walking home from a party at 2.37am on
January 5, when she realised someone was lurking behind her.
The 17-year-old texted a friend for help but it was too late.
She fended off the stranger's first attack but as she turned
to leave, he smashed her on the head with a rock he had
picked up from a nearby garden. Schofield kicked out again at
the male wearing a diamond earring as she lay on the ground
but he continued to hit her with the rock until she lost
consciousness. Then he stole her pink handbag.
It was Broughton.
Afterwards Broughton went back to Herewini's house with blood
all over his hands and T-shirt. He told Herewini he'd been in
a fight at the party and ''might have broken the other guy's
Herewini took Broughton to an outside tap to wash his hands,
put the bloodied T-shirt in the washing machine, gave
Broughton a clean one to wear and drove him home.
Meanwhile, Schofield had regained consciousness and staggered
to a nearby house. As the attack made headlines, Herewini
quizzed Broughton, who told him he had not attacked Schofield
and that he found the handbag on the footpath.
Eugenie Broughton visits her son in prison every month, along
with the rest of her family. The Corrections Department
refused to allow an interview or give any report on his
progress but he is in Te Ao Marama, which only takes
prisoners with a drug-free, good behavioural record.
Eugenie thinks he is less angry now and says he is mentoring
younger prisoners. Brian Aim wants to see Broughton change
but is sceptical, based on his sudden attempt to plead not
guilty and refusal to face up to his crime. After the
sentencing he spoke to Eugenie and her sister Josephine, and
asked to speak to Broughton but was turned down.
''His mother said she didn't want to put her son through the
pressure of meeting me,'' he recalls. He wasn't looking for
an apology or even an explanation why - just an honest
account of what really happened.
''We wanted to find out from the one person who knew what
happened that night whether Karen was chased and terrified
before she was murdered or was she murdered from behind and
never knew the incident ever happened.''
Broughton's refusal to admit what he did even though he
eventually pleaded guilty has confused and angered many
people involved in the case. One theory is
he still can't face admitting the enormity of his crime to
his own family, who continue to see him as their beloved boy,
incapable of such actions. It's a common mindset in cases
involving violence or sexual abuse, as criminals formally
acknowledge guilt to the court but cannot bear to do the same
to their loved ones.
Brian Aim later wrote to the police, asking what kind of
prison Broughton was in and how he was getting on. He is
following Mr Howell's efforts with interest, including
Broughton's account of his life circumstances, but has pulled
back from his own attempt to engage with his daughter's
''We're coming to New Zealand again some time within the next
few years and I might make contact with him then. I just
don't have the same necessity to speak to him that I did.''
He has also written a letter to the Parole Board to be opened
when Broughton applies for parole, arguing
he should remain in prison for the rest of his life.
Mr Howell has visited Broughton six times. He gave him a book
of prayers and bought the family gift vouchers for Christmas
on his behalf, with Broughton writing a letter to accompany
He says the 19-year-old is still in denial about the murder
but this is normal. Prisoners often go through the same
stages of grief as victims, and denial is the first stage on
the road to acceptance. The important thing, he argues, is
that he is willing to talk.
One of his Rotary audience recently asked if there was any
hope for Broughton. Mr Howell didn't try to sugar-coat the
''I said, 'He's got a lot of work to do'.''