Ngapera murder trial: Ruddelle tells jury she was protecting her son

6:25 pm on 14 February 2020

A woman on trial for murdering her abusive partner has told a jury she was protecting her son when she stabbed him.

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High Court in Auckland Photo: Rafael Ben-Ari/Chameleons Eye/ 123rf

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

It is the Crown's case the 58-year-old stabbed her partner with an intent to kill him while her lawyers say she was protecting herself after years of abuse.

Today Ruddelle told the jury she fell in love with Ngapera after meeting him in 2015, and was attracted to his generosity and talent.

"He just kind of lifted me up. We had a few things in common and he kept me uplifted. He had a sense of humour and he was a good entertainer; he played the guitar and wrote his own songs. When he wasn't being a terrible person he was a really good man."

She told the court Ngapera's violent tendencies emerged as their relationship progressed. He first hurt her at home.

"He grabbed me by the throat and he was strangling me. He had me up against the cupboard wall with both of his hands. I tried to say 'stop Joe, this is not you, this is not who you are'.

"He had me so tight with both hands and then with my right hand I touched him on the face and he let go and then he grabbed me again by the throat. I thought I was going to die."

Ruddelle said Ngapera continued to threaten and intimidate her as time went on.

"He told me that over in Australia he had murdered someone and he had done 18 years in Long Bay Prison and that there was another time where he had hurt somebody in Queen Street, a homeless man, and the homeless man had died."

She told the jury the couple had been out socialising at a Manurewa bar before being dropped home by Ruddelle's cousin the night she killed him.

The court heard Ngapera was angry her eldest son was staying in the house and the argument escalated.

"Joseph stood up from his chair and he came towards me. He didn't like what I said and I was going to get a crack from him anyway."

Ruddelle said she knew Joseph would hit her.

"I told him 'stop Joe, stop' and then after this I yelled out. I never do anything like this but I had to yell out for one of my children because I needed help."

She said she called out for her eldest son but it was her 14-year-old who came running instead; pushing Ngapera in the chest.

"A lot is going through my mind. I can only think that Joseph is going to hurt him; Joseph is going to smack him.

"So the table was set. My left hand, I reached over on the table and I grabbed the knife and I put it in my right hand.

"I pushed [my son] out of the way with my left arm and struck Joe twice."

Ruddelle told the jury she used the knife with the sole intention of stopping Ngapera from hurting her or her son.

It is the Crown's case she intended to kill him while her defence has argued she was acting in self defence.

The jury has heard the couple were the subject of more than a dozen police call-outs and a protection order over the years.

Yesterday, Ruddelle described growing up with domestic violence and alcoholism in her family home.

She said this carried on into her adult life but she felt things were different with Ngapera.

"I stayed with him because I could see that he needed some help. He just needed some healing and that I could support him and find resource and places for him to get help."

Under cross-examination by Crown prosecutor Yelena Yelavich, Ruddelle confirmed she was not trapped in the relationship.

She said she had her own money and place - and would have had support for her family had she tried to leave Ngapera.

The trial before Justice Palmer and a jury of eight women and four men continues.