6 Mar 2013

Trial begins for three accused of girls' manslaughter

10:14 pm on 6 March 2013

Three people accused of the manslaughter of two teenage girls in a crash on Christmas Day 2011 were racing their vehicles at the time and had been drinking, the Crown has told a jury.

Philippa Morehu, 37, Haki Davey, 19, and Hetaraka Reihana, 21, are charged with killing sisters Brooklyn and Merepeka Morehu-Clark, aged 13 and 14 at Welcome Bay near Tauranga.

Ms Morehu is the mother of the two girls.

At the Hamilton High Court on Wednesday, the Crown said the three accused were racing in separate cars and that they had all been drinking heavily beforehand.

The car driven by Heteraka Reihana and containing the two girls slammed into another vehicle on Welcome Bay Road, throwing them out.

It has estimated that Mr Reihana was driving at an estimated speed of 140km/h and his alcohol reading was twice the legal limit.

The Crown told the court one of the accused did not have a licence, one was disqualified from driving and one had only a restricted licence.

Prosecutor Greg Hollister-Jones said the crash was every driver's worst nightmare.

"Three drivers under the influence of alcohol, racing each other at ridiculous speed in unsafe vehicles coming around what was for them a near-blind corner with one driver passing the other two on the wrong side of the road."

Mr Hollister-Jones says the three are jointly charged with manslaughter because they egged each other on racing.

Two of the lawyers defending the accused told the jury on Wednesday the Crown had to prove that they were racing their vehicles at the time of the crash.

Mr Davey's lawyer said the Crown must prove his client was actually racing, or just driving fast.

Ms Morehu's lawyer said it needs to be proved that she was a willing participant in a race.