One of New Zealand’s most high profile and contentious murder cases looks to have come to an end with the arrest last night of the alleged killer.

Almost four months ago, three-month-old twin babies Chris and Cru Kahui died from horrific head and historical injuries in Auckland’s Starship Hospital. Their 21-year-old father, Chris Kahui, has been charged with their murder and faced court this morning in Auckland.

The death of the Maori twins, who had only been home from hospital for five weeks, has been huge news in New Zealand with everyone from the so-called “Tight 12” who were partying at the babies’ house when they were injured, to the police investigating, coming in for a bit of flak for the lack of progress in the case.

The twelve assorted cousins and flatmates have been routinely maligned over here for allegedly refusing to cooperate with the investigation (the parents apparently went to McDonald’s instead of taking the babies straight to hospital).

Despite various family members telling the media they know who killed the twins, police were routinely slammed – by everyone from Maori MPs, the media and apparently even Prime Minister Helen Clark – for failing to make what seemed like a straightforward arrest.

The case inevitably opened a few old wounds, with many commentators using it as a springboard to ram home their thoughts on the welfare dependency and aggression problems of New Zealand Maori.

As a result we’ve seen a plethora of comment on why it is Maori have the highest child abuse and child homicide rates of any community in New Zealand. It is, however, unlikely the whole Pakeha community would have come up for such scrutiny if the Kahuis had instead been white.

There’s no doubt that contrary to its laidback, idyllic image New Zealand has one of the worst child homicide rates on record. As  New Zealand’s outgoing Governor-General explained in her to-the-point parting address a few months, New Zealand has the third worst rate of child homicides in the OECD, and figures show it is increasing.

Maori children are now twice as likely as other Kiwi kids to be abused, and the Kahui case is not the first of its kind to capture the headlines for its lurid mix of historical abuse, family dysfunction and poverty.

Peter Fray

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