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Christmas Day crash trial enters second day

Published: 5:22AM Thursday March 07, 2013 Source: ONE News

The second day of a manslaughter trial for the mother of two teenage girls killed in Tauranga on Christmas Day in 2011 is due to commence this morning.

Philippa Morehu, 37, is standing trial in the High Court in Hamilton on two counts of manslaughter, following the death of her two daughters, Brooklyn Morehu-Clark, 13, and Merepeka Morehu-Clark, 14.

Morehu and two cousins of the teenage girls, Haki Davey and Hetaraka Reihana, have all pleaded not guilty to manslaughter.

On Christmas Day 2011, the group had decided to visit a family grave and allegedly began racing from Morehu's address along a winding public road.

The sisters died when the car they were travelling in crashed after overtaking another vehicle on Welcome Bay Road. Neither of the girls were wearing seatbelts.

A video taken on a phone showing a drinking session at Morehu's house just an hour before the alleged car race and fatal crash was shown at the trial yesterday.

Crown Prosecutor Greg Hollister-Jones told the court that "almost everything they did after leaving Phillippa Morehu's house was reckless and certainly criminal".

He described it as "alcohol fuelled madness" which led the group to drive in unsafe vehicles on a winding road with passengers not wearing seatbelts.

Reihana, 21, a first cousin of the girls, is alleged to have been racing with the girls in his car. The Crown said Reihana did not have a valid licence, and his learner's licence had been disqualified.

The court heard Morehu was driving 18-year-old Haki Davey's car, another cousin and co-defendant.

Prosecutors said Morehu was on a restricted licence and not allowed to drive with Davey in the car.

Reihana had drunk 6 - 8 cans of drink and 5 - 6 shots of straight vodka, the Crown said, while Morehu had drunk nine bottles of Steinlager.

It is alleged the cars reached speeds of more than 140 km/h, scaring Reihana's young passengers.

Witnesses say the girls' mother sped away from the crash scene. However, she later told police she blames herself for their deaths.

Her lawyer contends she was not aware of a race, while Davey's lawyer questioned if there ever was a race.

Davey's Lawyer Paul Mabey said yesterday that "there needs to be a race. Because if it's not a race, it's just three cars driving in a line".

The cars were unregistered, the court heard, and had serious defects that would have seen them fail a WOF.

The driver of the ute the car crashed into will give evidence at the trial, which is set down for three weeks.