Rapist's victim tells of terrifying 'hell'

Eric Hepi will spend at least 15 years in prison before he is considered for release. PHOTO:...
Eric Hepi will spend at least 15 years in prison before he is considered for release. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
For three days, he beat his victim, raped her and hacked her hair off with a knife.

Eric Reihana Hepi (41) may now spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Justice Robert Osborne, before the High Court at Dunedin yesterday, imposed preventive detention (an indefinite term of imprisonment) with a minimum period of 15 years and two months for what he called "utter selfishness and barbarity''.

Two experts found Hepi exceeded the threshold on psychopathy tests and was a high risk of further sexual offending.

"If any woman had to imagine the worst sort of thing that could happen, the brutal and utterly degrading treatment you subjected [the victim] to for three days might well be it,'' the judge said.

The woman who endured the harrowing ordeal attended the hearing by video link and gave an emotional statement which Justice Osborne called "remarkable''.

"I now truly understand the meaning of the word terror,'' she told the court.

"I feel like I saw and I was in hell ... I was certain I was going to die.''

She had met Hepi only days before October 22 last year, but despite their limited contact, the man bombarded her with calls.

So intent was the defendant on meeting that he went to confront the woman at her home.

She left with him, to avoid creating a scene, and they went to the man's Kaikorai Valley Rd flat.

The victim had no idea she would spend the next three days there fighting for her life and at times hoping it would end.

When Hepi asked her to spend the night and she declined, he stood in the doorway, blocking her exit.

He slammed her against a wall and strangled her until she urinated and passed out.

"I came to on the kitchen floor convulsing. Then the terrorising continued for days,'' she said.

"I saw anger and hatred in his eyes.''

Hepi broke the victim's phone, then began berating her over why she would not enter a relationship with him.

Every time she answered his question, he punched her. She was left covered in bruises and estimated she was struck up to 30 times.

While she sat on a chair in the kitchen, Hepi took a kitchen knife and hacked off her hair.

She described it as feeling "like being scalped''.

After slicing her shoulder with the knife, the defendant made her choose between further violence or sex.

Over the following two nights, Hepi repeatedly violated his prisoner as well as forcing her to commit various degrading acts.

He threatened to "do the murder-suicide thing'' and made the victim swallow prescription pills.

Amid the physical abuse, the woman decided to throw herself out of the window and grabbed a pillow for protection.

But as she made her leap, Hepi grabbed her, pinned her to the floor and raped her again.

It ended only when the defendant briefly left the flat and the victim locked him out.

She called emergency services, who heard her screams as Hepi broke down the door.

The man was being GPS-monitored at the time because he was serving an Extended Supervision Order for previous sex offending, the court heard.

However, he had breached that order repeatedly.

Psychologists labelled him a "treatment failure''.

The victim said she now found her life almost unbearable.

"I have to disassociate myself from the memory of this just to function. I wake up every day and think about it,'' she said.

"How can people help me when they can't possibly understand living through what I did?''

While Hepi stood impassively in the dock for much of the hearing, he reacted explosively when Justice Osborne raised his sex offences against children, for which he was sentenced in 2012.

"I don't care if I die in prison. I'm not going to let you sit here and say I've molested a kid.''

Crown prosecutor Richard Smith said that lack of insight and Hepi's resistance to treatment made him such a high-risk offender in the eyes of experts.

"It's difficult to imagine a more serious and disturbing case.''

While the imposition of preventive detention was opposed by counsel Brian Kilkelly, Justice Osborne said he reached the decision "by a clear margin''.

Timeline

  • 1997: Jailed for seven and a-half years after breaking into girlfriend’s house, raping her and forcing her to commit a range of sex acts.
  • 2002: Completed anti-violence course.
  • 2007: Failed a medium-intensity rehabilitation programme for assault on a stranger.
  • 2012: Imprisoned for four years and three months for sexually abusing partner’s two daughters over the course of a year; given first strike.
  • 2013: Started Kia Marama sex-offender programme; exited for acts of aggression.
  • 2014: Completed Kia Marama on second attempt.
  • 2015: Transferred to another prison because of disobeying prison rules and hostility towards therapists; Extended Supervision Order granted on release because assessed as a high risk of further violent or sexual offending.
  • 2016: Six months jail for breaching ESO.
  • 2018: Jailed for a year for breaching the ESO after being found with two children under 16.

Who is Eric Hepi?

  • He told psychologists he was raised as one of seven children and always felt as though he was the "black sheep" of the family.
  • Throughout his childhood, he suffered significant violence at the hands of an abusive uncle and, in turn, he gained a reputation as a school bully.
  • He was eventually expelled for using cannabis following a string of problems during his schooling.
  • At the age of 12, Hepi had a sexual relationship with a 36-year-old woman. He recently told assessors he now recognised that bond was abusive.
  • After leaving school, he spent some time on the street before he was taken in by a gang. Through those associations, he developed alcohol and drug dependency issues which had plagued him through adulthood, the court heard.
  • Hepi now had more than 60 convictions to his name, which featured both violence and sex crimes.
  • He had no discernible support network, psychologists said, and was in contact with only one of his nine children.
  • Hepi described himself as "a lonely man".

 

 

 

 

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