Saturday, November 27

Dead woman suffered 76 injuries, higher court said

Warning: this story contains details of violence and abuse.

A woman, who was allegedly killed by a man on trial for her homicide, was found to have suffered 76 injuries, including those related to strangulation, a court was informed.

Detail of the wall behind the judge in a Manukau district court room.

(File image).
Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

The Crown said the defendant stepped on her, kicked her and offered her to others for sex in the days leading up to her death.

Maui Philip Downes faces trial before Judge Peter Churchman and a jury in Palmerston North Superior Court, charged with the woman’s murder and indecent assault.

He is also accused of disfiguring another woman with the intention of pouring boiling water on her.

Downes, 55, admitted to injuring the second woman with intent, assault, and causing serious bodily harm with the intent of two attacks.

Women’s identities are suppressed.

Crown prosecutor Deborah Davies said paramedics were unable to resuscitate the woman Downes is accused of killing on October 16, 2019.

They were called to Downes’ room at Legacy House, an emergency shelter provider in Palmerston North, where the woman was staying.

In the early hours of the previous day, the residents of Downes woke up to a loud roar and other noises. They saw the woman, pale and shocked, Davies said.

Three days before the woman’s death, Downes and others passed a pipe of methamphetamine in the room, he said.

Downes tried to inject substances into his arms and had a needle in his leg, he said.

The woman was asleep on her floor, wrapped in a blanket, when Downes kicked her and stomped on her stomach and head, she said.

The Crown said that over the next few days, he indecently assaulted and wounded her so violently that he killed her.

Davies also said that Downes offered the woman to others for sex.

An ambulance was called on October 16, when paramedics tried for about 50 minutes to revive the woman.

Downes initially said the woman had choked on a piece of bread “as big as a giant Jaffa,” but paramedics found nothing in her airway.

“The Crown case is the suffocation story, it is not the reality here,” Davies said.

A post-mortem examination revealed that the woman had suffered 76 injuries, including head injuries, a broken wrist, new and old rib fractures, and neck injuries consistent with strangulation.

He also had a puncture wound to one hand and drugs in his system.

It was not plausible that a “mysterious unknown assailant” caused the injuries to the woman, or that they had occurred by accident, Davies said.

Downes admitted to assaulting a second woman twice in October 2019. He had prior convictions for assaulting her.

He is also accused of pouring boiling coffee on her and, when the woman was in the hospital after one of the attacks, she threatened a liaison worker not to say what happened.

Downes’s attorney, Gareth Stone, said the defense would argue that there were questions about what caused the fatal injuries to the first woman or who was responsible for them.

Downes did not intend to cause serious harm to the second woman during the boiling water incident.

“We are not here to say that Mr. Downes is innocent of any wrongdoing. There are parts of this case that he accepts,” Stone said.

“Mr. Downes is not being judged for who he is as a person. All he asks for and has the right to ask for is a fair trial.”

The trial continues.

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