26 Sep 2009

Court rules uncle shouldn't be retried over girl's death

3:58 pm on 26 September 2009

The Court of Appeal has ruled against sending Christchurch man George Gwaze back for a retrial on charges of sexually assaulting and murdering his niece.

Charlene Makaza, 10, died in January 2007. Her uncle, Mr Gwaze, was subsequently tried for her murder but acquitted.

In a rare move, the Crown appealed against the acquittal on the grounds that the trial judge should not have allowed hearsay evidence to go before the jury.

That evidence related to a study of HIV in children and supported the defence view that Charlene Makaza died of HIV-related complications, rather than that she was raped and murdered.

The Court of Appeal panel was not unanimous, with one judge saying that the forensic evidence strongly suggested murder and that he felt there was enough of a degree of probability to warrant a retrial.

Mr Gwaze's lawyer Jonathan Eaton says although his client always believed the appeal would be dismissed, the ruling is a huge relief and he can now move on with his life.