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NZ: Killer denies he raped stepdaughter, 5 (Hawke's Bay)

Publish Date: 08 Nov 2011
Source: NZ Herald
By: Catherine Masters

Kerry Charles Ratana. Photo/APN

Sahara Baker-Koro's mother says her ex-partner told her the night she found her daughter dead that he had raped the 5-year-old, that he was sorry and that he asked her not to call the police.

Chantally Baker took the witness stand at the High Court in Napier yesterday in the trial of Kerry Charles Ratana, 25, who has already admitted the manslaughter of Sahara but is fighting a charge of unlawful sexual connection against the girl just before Christmas last year. The judge told the jury they were only to concern themselves with the sexual violation charge as Ratana had already admitted killing Sahara, but details about how she died did emerge.

The Crown says Ratana pushed her in the chest with significant force to the point her heart was damaged.

Ratana claims she had been complaining and he was just trying to get her to "shut up".

Baker, Sahara's mother, told how she had returned home from a shift at The Warehouse about 10.30pm. Stepfather Ratana was on the couch and their then 2-year-old son Rome was asleep on a mattress in the room.

Sahara and her older sister were in bed in their room.

Baker then went to bed on the mattress with Rome.

It was a "bit strange" that Ratana went to bed in the main bedroom instead of joining them but she had thought nothing of it.

She was woken about midnight by her phone ringing, which Ratana had with him. He said the caller was his father and he took the phone out on to the deck.

Baker could hear him telling his father "I'm sorry dad, I love you, I've done something terribly wrong ..."

She went outside to ask what was wrong, saying Ratana was "absolutely sobbing and crying".

Back inside the house he told her he loved her and was sorry.

"Hearing him say 'I'm sorry, I love you,' something just came over me, just shivers all through my spine that I had to go and check my kids, my girls."

Her older daughter was warm but Sahara was cold, Baker said.

"I remember screaming and yelling and crying and I picked her up and I held her and I was like what the f*** did you do, what the f*** did you do to my daughter?

"He said to me 'I raped her. I'm sorry. Please don't call the police'."

She called 111 and Ratana left the house.

One of Ratana's defence counsels, Eric Forster, asked Baker if Ratana had said the death was an accident and asked if she could have been mistaken in what she thought she heard given the emotion of the moment.

Baker replied "no". When pushed, Baker tapped her forehead and said - "It's here, right here, and it's the truth for my daughter."

The court also heard that swabs taken from Sahara had not found any of Ratana's DNA. Ratana's senior counsel, John Rowan, said his client's defence was that he had not violated Sahara in any way, and his case was supported by the science.


UPDATE

Hung jury in Sahara sex case

Publish Date: 12 Nov 2011
Source: Hawkes Bay News


A Napier jury has been unable to reach a verdict in the trial of 25-year-old Kerry Charles Ratana, who denies sexually violating his former girlfriend's 5-year-old daughter despite admitting he caused her death.

The stalemate after more than six hours' deliberating, was announced by Justice Simon France in the High Court just before 5pm yesterday, an hour and 20 minutes after telling the jury of six men and six women they could record a majority 11-1 verdict if they could reach one.

But the only agreement was that they were unable to meet the threshhold for a verdict on whether or not Ratana violated former partner's daughter Sahara Jayde Baker Koro, who died early on the night of December 20 last year.

A new trial was ordered, with a date possibly to be set on November 22, and Ratana remains in custody, also awaiting sentence on the manslaughter charge to which he pleaded guilty in July.

There were brief, angry scenes in the courtroom as Ratana was led to the cells, replying "Whatever" before he disappeared from view.

The victim's mother Chantally Baker, of Whanganui, the dead girl's father, and other family left the court, while members of Ratana's family remained behind to avert any risk of confrontation outside.

The four days of the trial had been free of trouble in and outside of the courtroom, and the judge commended the families for their behaviour.

The jury, told Sahara died while Ms Baker was at work leaving her two daughters and the couple's son in the care of the accused, heard an hour-long closing address by defence counsel John Rowan QC, of Whanganui, and a 25-minute summary by the judge before retiring at 10.55am yesterday.

In a trial which started on Monday and which was delayed by more than a day mid-week for further "testing", Ms Baker said Ratana never revealed Sahara was dead when she got home, and she went to sleep thinking the children were also asleep.

It was only after she heard Ratana crying and talking to his father on a phone without explanation of what was wrong that she made the shock discovery, telling the court Ratana then said: "I raped her. I'm sorry. Don't call the police."

Ratana later denied to police that he had said that, and maintained the denial in court along with denying he had touched Sahara sexually in any way.

Two former short-term residents at the address, two detectives, two paediatricians, a pathologist, and a forensic scientist were called by Crown prosecutor Clayton Walker to give evidence, but no witnesses were called by defence pair Mr Rowan and Hawke's Bay barrister Eric Forster.

In his address, Mr Rowan focused on the absence of DNA from the girl linking Ratana to her sexual injuries, described by experts as most likely to have been from non-accidental penetration, although by what object could not be specified.

The fact that traces of "foreign" DNA found could not have been Ratana's was "huge," said Mr Rowan, claiming it meant Ratana could not have sexually violated the 5-year-old.

He also focused on Ratana's co-operation with police after he was found at a Taradale phone booth about 4.30 in the morning.

Mr Rowan cited Ratana's agreement to a video interview without delay, another video at Hawke's Bay Prison three days later, and his admissions of pressing forcefully on Sahara's chest and causing her death as indications of reliability of his statements.

Justice France said Ratana's claim that he didn't sexually violate the girl was "the only real issue". Saying the events were "disturbing" and that "the loss of a young life alarms and angers us all," the Judge reminded the jury not to be prejudiced by Ratana's other admissions and other sympathies.


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