13 Feb 2020

Karen Ruddelle trial: Son tells police he saw mum stab partner

7:42 pm on 13 February 2020

The jury in the trial of a woman accused of murdering her abusive partner has heard what her son told police the night of the stabbing.

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Karen Anne Ruddelle is on trial in the High Court at Auckland charged with murdering Joseph Ngapera in November 2018. Photo: Rafael Ben-Ari/Chameleons Eye/ 123rf

Karen Anne Ruddelle is on trial in the High Court at Auckland charged with murdering Joseph Ngapera in their Manurewa home in the early hours of 14 November 2018.

It's the Crown's case she stabbed him with an intent to kill while her defence argues she was acting in self-defence after years of abuse.

Ruddelle's youngest son, who was 14 at the time, spoke to Constable Wepiha Te Kanawa at the Thompson Terrace house.

The police officer wasn't permitted to share what was said when he gave evidence this week but Crown prosecutor Christ Howard read his notes to the court today.

"I woke up. I walked into the kitchen. I saw my Mum arguing with Joseph. I think she stabbed him with a kitchen knife. I think she's drunk. She doesn't usually drink, he told Constable Te Kanawa.

"I think my mum got upset because Joseph was talking about my sibling in a negative way. I wasn't awake when they were fighting. I just woke up from my bed when I heard Mum scream.

"I walked into the kitchen. I pushed Joe away because he was arguing with Mum. The next thing I know Mum had a knife and stabbed Joe."

The jury has heard Ruddelle told police she grabbed the nearest thing, being a knife with a 19cm blade, when her son intervened in the argument.

She said Ngapera lunged at her despite her telling him to stop but the Crown has argued Ngapera had two stab wounds that would have required repeated force.

Constable Sarah Hunter arrested Ruddelle at the scene and told the jury the 58-year-old's demeanour was hysterical.

"Her mood was erratic. She would switch between crying hysterically followed by anger and aggression.

"She asked me 'is Joseph gone?' I responded 'yes he is dead'. She kept saying 'it should have been me'," Constable Hunter said.

Constable Richard Perese drove Ruddelle to the police station with Constable Hunter sitting alongside the woman in the back seat.

"I heard the defendant asking Constable Hunter 'is Joseph gone?' Constable Hunter replied 'yes' then I heard the defendant say 'thank you Jesus'," he said.

Ruddelle's lawyer Shane Cassidy cross-examined Constable Perese on this point; given Constable Hunter didn't recall this comment when giving evidence just minutes earlier.

He asked the police officer if his client may have been talking to herself rather than Constable Hunter.

"I'm not too sure. Basically when I heard it I turned the rear view mirror just to have a look at her so I wasn't sure if she was talking at her or to herself."

Ruddelle's defence team, comprising Cassidy and Paul Pati, have argued Ruddelle was protecting herself and her family when she stabbed Ngapera.

She elected to give evidence in her own defence this afternoon, beginning by describing to the jury a childhood marred by domestic violence and alcoholism.

"Being the oldest you had to take care of everything and make sure that when your parents went out that the kids were taken care of; fed; house clean; and protecting them when they need you."

She told the jury her mother used to send her up the road to phone police for help when she was as young as 8 years old.

Ruddelle said the drinking and violence continued into her adult life where romantic partners threatened and hurt her.

Ruddelle was granted a protection order in July 2016 that Ngapera went on to breach but by the time he died the protection order Ruddelle sought had been discharged at her own request.

She will continue giving evidence tomorrow morning.