Taiaha snapped during attack

Johnny Wright
Johnny Wright
A murder accused's former partner says she remembers the "pain"in a dying man's eyes the day before his death, after he was brutally beaten with a Maori war weapon.

Steven Tiwini Rakuraku, 39, is facing 12 charges, including the alleged kidnapping and murder of Johnny Charles Wright, who disappeared on June 21, 2011.

The 50-year-old's body was found in a shallow grave after police acted on information when Rakuraku's partner "came clean", leading detectives to search a rural property near Eskdale two months after his disappearance.

Rakuraku denies all the charges against him.

His 40-year-old former partner continued her evidence today during the Napier High Court trial and recalled the last days of Mr Wright's life.

She said the Hastings man was kept in "complete darkness" by Rakuraku at a Caroline Rd home, which was accessible only by a hole in the wall to an adjoining flat.

"We both had to do as Mr Rakuraku instructed us to do ... if we didn't do what he asked, Mr Rakuraku would loose control."

She said in the days leading to Mr Wright's death she attempted to give him basic medical care and dress his wounds.

"I would get a needle and a thread and I would start stitching Johnny's split ears together."

"I saw the taiaha attack," she said.

Rakuraku used the wooden Maori war weapon, which she described was about 1.4m in length, until it "snapped into two" from "pelting Johnny".

"After the taiaha attack, Johnny found it difficult to stand. When he walked he dragged one of his legs," she said. "I wouldn't do anything. Mr Rakuraku doesn't like to be disobeyed, he would turn on you."

She explained to the court that there was blood splattered throughout the flat as a result of the beatings Mr Wright endured.

She said it was a "daily routine" for Rakuraku to wake up and "take out his anger" on Mr Wright or herself.

Crying in the witness box, she remembered saying to Mr Wright: "I'll try get us out of here."

"I was too afraid that Mr Rakuraku would turn up as we tried to leave," she said, explaining why the pair never attempted to escape.

She recalled the time Mr Wright's parents visited the flat, looking for their eldest son just days before he died, but Rakuraku turned them away.

"Johnny and I would be in the back," she said. "[Rakuraku] would then get Johnny to call his parents and say sorry I'd missed them but he had to get back to work."

The 40-year-old said she last saw Mr Wright alive in the back yard of the flat, his health deteriorating to the point he couldn't talk.

"I could tell by his body language he was in pain. As I said he was dragging his right leg. He had no strength to walk.

"The look in his eyes, I could tell he was really hurting. His eyes just said it all. He really needed medical attention."

The next morning she said she woke at 6am to Rakuraku insisting they return some library books.

"As I lay there in the bed, Mr Rakuraku went through the hole [in the wall]. I heard him yelling at Johnny 'get up, get up'."

"All I heard was a big thud and it was just complete silence after that."

Rakuraku's former partner will give further evidence this afternoon as the trial continues.

Yesterday, the 40-year-old said she saw Rakuraku beat Mr Wright "on many occasions" at a Warwick Rd house and witnessed him wiping down the walls with his own shirt, cleaning away the blood.

She said Rakuraku utilised a "martial arts style" and kick boxing moves to "beat the s*** out of Johnny".

Since the start of the trial Rakuraku has represented himself after he fired his lawyer, Russell Fairbrother QC.

However, Justice Williams appointed an amicus curiae (friend of the court), consisting of Mr Fairbrother and co-counsel Leo Lafferty.

This has restricted Rakuraku from cross-examining witnesses that are also complainants, such as his former partner.

The Crown's prosecution is led by Mr Manning and Jo Reilly.

- By Sam Hurley of the Hawke's Bay Today

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