2 May 2012

Gwaze never violent towards niece, wife tells court

6:21 pm on 2 May 2012

The wife of a man charged with murdering his niece has told a court he was never violent and did not show an inappropriate interest in children.

Sifiso Gwaze has been giving evidence at the retrial of George Gwaze, 60, who is accused of the sexual violation and murder of their adopted niece, Charlene Makaza, in January 2007.

The Crown argues the 10-year-old suffered a forceful sexual attack by her uncle. The defence says the girl died from an overwhelming infection caused by HIV.

On Wednesday, Mrs Gwaze continued to give evidence at the High Court in Christchurch and said the girl was treated as the baby of the family with extra love and attention.

She said the girl shared her uncle's love of animals and used to watch the television show Animal Planet with him.

Mrs Gwaze said on the morning of 6 January 2007, Miss Mazaka became unwell and she heard unusual and strained breathing from the girl's room. She said she found her unresponsive - with mucus and froth coming from her mouth and nose - and lying in a pool of diarrhoea.

The court was told the child was fully dressed in clothes, rather than pyjamas. Mrs Gwaze said she undressed her niece and tried to clean her up before taking her to Christchurch Hospital.

The court was told that Charlene Mazaka was regularly unwell and tired easily. Under cross-examination from defence lawyer James Rapley Mrs Gwaze said that Miss Makaza had had 20 days away from school in 2006 due to illness.

Mrs Gwaze described her niece as an unwell little girl who used to get into bed with her aunt and uncle for a cuddle when she was feeling sick. She had to be treated with antibiotics for various infections and skin disorders around her genital and rectal areas.

The girl had come to live with the Gwazes after her own parents died in Africa, and subsequently immigrated to New Zealand with them.