“From that day on, I was terrified,” an alleged victim of sexual abuse by Marist Brother and schoolteacher Charles Afeaki told an interviewing police detective.

Photo: Lawrence Smith/Stuff

“I stopped learning at that class, I stopped learning at that school. I stopped learning forever.”

Three hours of police video interviews with the complainant were shown to the court on the opening day of the trial of 81-year-old former Marist Brother and teacher, who faces 14 charges related to alleged historic sexual offending in the 1970s.

Afeaki denies all the offending and is facing a judge-alone trial in front of Judge Kirsten Lummis at the Auckland District Court.

On Tuesday, prosecutor Daniel Becker detailed how 12 charges related to alleged offending by Afeaki against an 11-year-old pupil of his at Marist Brothers primary school in Invercargill in 1975, including sexual assaults in a classroom, behind a scout den, and on a school trip.

The others relate to a boy who was aged 12 when taught by Afeaki at St Paul’s College in central Auckland in 1979.

Afeaki’s lawyer Roger Eagles said his client denied the offending, and could not remember either of the complainants.

“The defendant says there are numerous aspects of the evidence of the complainants that are wrong, and unbelievable.”

Afeaki has been imprisoned on two previous occasions for sexual offending. In 1994, he was labelled a hypocrite by the judge who sentenced him to eight years’ jail for offending against four boys in the late 1970s. In 2003, he was sentenced to two years in prison for offences against a fifth boy, but the court heard then that he had turned his life around.

The first complainant in this trial, told the interviewing detective: “This is going [with me] to my grave, I realise that now”.

The complainant believed he had been abused “50 times” during a year in Afeaki’s classroom, usually when he was told to stay behind after school, but also on a school camp and behind a neighbouring scout hut.

The complainant said the abuse began on his third day in Afeaki’s classroom when he was caned for laughing at a sexual reference in a Bible reading, then told to stay behind after class. He was abused, and told: “You know this stays here”.

“I was terrified from day three, I was in terror,” he said. “And I was a happy kid before that.

“From that day on, I was terrified. I stopped learning at that class, I stopped learning at that school. I stopped learning forever.”

He described Afeaki as a big man “who towered over me”.

“I was terrified, frightened, alone,” he said.

He said he kept quiet because he was afraid Afeaki would do something to his family. He said he began stealing alcohol from family members to numb the pain. He said he was desperate for a younger sibling not to end up in his class. “If I was told to stay after class I knew what would happen every time.”

He talked about his lifelong insomnia, and difficulties forming adult relationships.

Becker told Judge Lummis the second complainant would tell the court he was abused in a store room behind Afeaki’s classroom at St Paul’s in 1979, and once while he was in hospital for an operation.

The prosecution intends to call several witnesses who will say the boys told them about the offending.

Afeaki, who needed a hearing loop to listen to evidence, sat impassively, taking notes as the interview was played.

Earlier on Tuesday, Judge Lummis granted an application from Stuff to photograph Afeaki in court, despite objections from the defence, who had submitted it would bring shame on his extended family around the world.

The wealthy Marist Brothers order owns Catholic schools nationwide, and traditionally taught in their schools, but has only 55, elderly, surviving members, none of whom regularly work in classrooms.

The order’s significant history of sexual abuse was detailed in Stuff’s 2022 series A Secret History, which included 57 settlements to sexual abuse survivors totalling $540,000 as at 2019. As part of that series, the Brothers’ delegate, Peter Horide, issued a public apology for their conduct.

By Steve Kilgallon
Published in Stuff