‘Close to tears’: How two men took down a Marist ‘monster’

Charles Afeaki, a Marist Brother and schoolteacher, was prolific in his sexual offending against his pupils in the 1970s. This month, he stood trial again on charges which have ruined his victims’ lives. Steve Kilgallon reports.

Charles Afeaki walked slowly into courtroom 16 of Auckland District Court leaning on a cane. He was 81 years old, and frail. He didn’t remove his trench coat as he sat down next to his lawyer. He needed a hearing loop to listen to the evidence against him.

He was no longer as Tāne Davies* remembered him. To an 11-year-old Tane, his standard two teacher at Marist Brothers school back in Invercargill in 1975 was “a monster. A big Tongan guy. Big, big puku”.

There was an extended shuffle to ensure that when Tane came to give evidence in the trial of Charles Afeaki, the pair never came eye to eye inside courtroom 16.

Afeaki was moved into the dock, and a portable screen with neon lights, held together with sticky tape, was wheeled across to block the line of sight to the witness box. Then Tane entered the courtroom, not from the main door, but from the judges’ chambers. Despite all that manoeuvring, he caught a glimpse of Afeaki, and saw not the monster, but a diminished old man.

Justice had been a long time catching up with Charles Afeaki, but it had now arrived, and Tane and another survivor of his abuse, Robbie West*, would finally get their day.

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