85-year-old jailed for sexual abuse

Murray Kannewischer was jailed for eight years for two decades of abuse. PHOTO: ROB KIDD
Murray Kannewischer was jailed for eight years for two decades of abuse. PHOTO: ROB KIDD
An 85-year-old Dunedin man jailed for eight years for sexually abusing six girls continues to deny his guilt.

Murray Oscar Kannewischer was convicted of 21 charges following a jury trial last month at the Dunedin District Court, and yesterday, at his sentencing, the victims talked of how he robbed them of a childhood.

Judge Michael Crosbie called it ‘‘systematic abuse’’.

‘‘You preyed on these defenceless young women when they were all at about the same stage of physical and emotional development,’’ he said.

‘‘Make no mistake, this is very grave offending.’’

The defendant’s sexual offending spanned the period of 1963 to 1983 but only came to light when one of the victims came forward in early 2015.

Other women were interviewed by police over the course of the year and as a result the man was charged at the start of 2016.

Kannewischer pleaded not guilty to 18 counts of indecency, two of rape and one of indecent assault.

Despite the outcome of the trial he maintained that stance.

He had recently told Probation one of the victims was his ‘‘favourite’’ while another he labelled a ‘‘schemer’’, the court heard.

‘‘There is a degree of flippancy and avoidance,’’ Crown prosecutor Craig Power said.

One victim told the jury at trial she had been violated while the defendant’s wife was in hospital giving birth.

Others spoke about Kannewischer repeatedly groping them.

One said the defendant would enter her room late at night and fondle her ‘‘quite roughly’’ on a regular basis.

‘‘It seemed to go on forever,’’ the woman said.

Multiple victims said the defendant told them the lewd behaviour would help them ‘‘become a woman’’ and he had also warned them not to tell anyone about what had happened.

‘‘It can only be seen as perverse or some sort of self-induced justification on your part,’’ Judge Crosbie said.

The victims — whose names are all automatically suppressed — read their emotional impact statements in court yesterday.

‘‘You stripped me of my childhood,’’ one woman said.

She described a plethora of psychological problems suffered since the prolonged ordeal and said she had attempted suicide in the past.

Other victims sought refuge in alcohol and overeating to numb their pain, the court heard.

One woman faced the man as he sat in the dock, with one question: ‘‘why?’’

‘‘The trial brought back many hidden nightmares, so the tears once again have flown freely and black thoughts have come back,’’ another victim said.

But she was resolute and said she would get through the trauma with the help of the other victims.

Judge Crosbie praised them for speaking ‘‘bravely and candidly’’.

‘‘You are a strong, formidable group of women and you are all survivors.’’ he said.

He addressed Kannewischer: ‘‘Deep down, I hope that what you heard in court today was hard to listen to.’’

Crown prosecutor Craig Power said there was ‘‘an aspect of brazenness to the offending’’, which often took place when there were others present.

‘‘The effects have been lifelong and profound,’’ he said.

While Kannewischer’s physical health was poor, Judge Crosbie said his cognitive functioning was not impaired and the man knew the gravity of the situation.



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