26 Apr 2016

Decade-old murder case makes it to court

6:06 pm on 26 April 2016

The trial of an Auckland man accused of murdering a woman and her young daughter will continue with only 11 jurors after one realised he knew a key Crown witness.

Kamal Gyanendra Reddy, 41, is on trial in the High Court in Auckland for the murders of Pakeeza Yusuf and her three-year-old daughter, Juwairiyah Kalim.

The pair went missing in late 2006 but their bodies were only discovered under a bridge on the North Shore in 2014.

Juwairiyah Kalim - known as Jojo  (left)  and a photo of her and her mother Pakeeza Faizal, also known as Mubarak Yusuf.

Juwairiyah Kalim - known as Jojo (left) - and a photo of her and her mother Pakeeza Faizal, also known as Mubarak Yusuf. Photo: Supplied / NZ Police

The Crown gave its opening address this morning, but Justice Asher discharged a jury member after lunch because of his connection to a Crown witness.

The court was adjourned for most of the afternoon while the judge decided how to proceed.

Under the Juries Act, the trial can continue with only 11 jurors, and the judge has ruled the diminished jury will return tomorrow.

The Crown claims Mr Reddy strangled Ms Yusuf with the cord of an iron as she lay sleeping, before smothering Juwairiyah with a pillow.

He then allegedly buried their bodies under a bridge at a construction site on the North Shore, where they lay undiscovered until 2014.

Crown lawyer Luke Clancy said the police began investigating the pair's disappearance in 2013 after Ms Yusuf's mother reported her missing.

Officers discovered Juwairiyah had not been to kindergarten since December 2006, and Ms Yusuf's benefit had lapsed in 2007 after she failed to renew it, Mr Clancy said.

They also found there had been no day-to-day transactions on Ms Yusuf's bank account since late 2006, but an increase in cash withdrawals - which corresponded with decreasing withdrawals from Mr Reddy's own bank account.

Mr Reddy admitted he knew Ms Yusuf's bank details and passwords, Mr Clancy said.

That bank activity, combined with Mr Reddy getting rid of a couch Ms Yusuf had owned after he saw it in a police file photograph of Juwairiyah, helped officers zero in on him as a suspect, Mr Clancy said.

That prompted police to begin an extensive undercover operation, which ran from April 2014 to October that year, he said.

The operation involved an undercover officer gaining Mr Reddy's trust, through a series of "simulated criminal scenarios".

Further details of the operation were suppressed.

However, by the end of the operation, Mr Reddy had made a number of admissions to the undercover officers, including that he had killed Ms Yusuf and Juwairiyah and buried their bodies, Mr Clancy said.

He then took an undercover officer to the burial site, where the bodies were later discovered.

Mr Clancy also told the court why Ms Yusuf's family had not reported her missing until 2013.

A few months prior to Ms Yusuf's disappearance, she had told her mother, Rojina Banu, that Mr Reddy had started drinking and could be abusive and violent, Mr Clancy said.

Mrs Banu "was not immediately sympathetic", as she had not supported Ms Yusuf's decision to leave her former husband and start a new relationship.

After that, she did not hear from her daughter again but heard different rumours about her, including that Ms Yusuf had left Auckland and started a new relationship.

Mr Reddy told Mrs Banu some of those rumours himself, Mr Clancy said.

"Weeks turned into months turned into years", but still Mrs Banu did not hear from her daughter.

It was not until 2013, on the advice of a friend, that she went to the police - sparking the 19-month investigation.

Six men and six women were originally selected as jury members for Mr Reddy's trial.

The trial was scheduled to run for four weeks.

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