“Victim accomplished” Bailey Kurariki: [no] life in a glass-walled cage

The angel faced 12 year old was the image that the media highlighted, which meant that Bailey Junior received a much greater punishment than those who were far more culpable for their actions than he who pretended to be the customer when Michael Choy arrived. I am not minimising his involvement – he was part of a group that predetermined to rob a delivery person and he played a role in that – but despite all the coverage, he did not kill Michael Choy.

Lianne Dalziel, “What will turn the tide?

[Update]I added that epigraph this morning after reading Dalziel’s speech to the Restorative Justice Practitioners’ 2010 Conference.

The media attention “lavished” on Bailey Junior Kurariki this week is possibly driving the young man mad. A round of court appearancesfresh charges and more lurid headlines is probably the last thing Kurariki needs right now.

Not that any of those reasons will prevent the media circus from continuing around this most [in]famous of young men.

The Junior Kurariki “brand” is also deadly to his chances of ever living a normal life: “New Zealand’s youngest convicted murderer killer”; the “baby-faced killer”. [tx Tim Selwyn for pointing that out]

That was then, this is now, but even that realisation doesn’t stop the news media from effortlessly [ie: without the effort of thinking through the consequences] reeling off these “pop shot” expressions every time there’s any reason to mention his name in relation to a story.

Obviously Kurariki’s no saint – he participated in a the brutal murder killing of 40-year-old pizza delivery guy, Michael Choy, when he was 11 or 12.  Kurariki’s role was to act as a decoy and give the signal for others to attack Choy; he did not deliver the fatal blow. [Updated Sunday morning]

he’s Kurariki’s been in and out of minor trouble ever since his release from jail in 2008 – but he’s not been given a chance to readjust to life outside either. He was something like 12 or 13 when he went to jail and nearly 20 when he came out.

Think about that for a moment.

He missed out on a whole bunch of shit that any “normal” young boy would go through in those vital teen years. He went from childhood to adulthood in the crazy-making artificial fishbowl world of 24/7 surveillance; huge restrictions on his every waking moment and in an environment that bears no relation at all to the “real” world.

In other words, Bailey Junior Kurariki learned to be a man under totally un-natural and irrational conditions. Is there any real wonder that today he displays behaviours that are considered un-natural and irrational?

No, there is isn’t. There’s just one more sad example added to the evidence pile of argument that prison does not work as any form of real “rehabilitation” and rather than “cure” criminal behaviour it reinforces it. In Kurariki’s case it also reinforces his infantilism and lack of maturity.

And none of that is an excuse for the news media turning Kurariki into some kind of freakshow attraction like the legendary wolfboy. He is not an exhibit to be poked at, prodded and pelted with fruit.

It reminds me of why I hate zoos.

When I was a boy of 11 my family lived in the US city of Milwaukee. There was a very famous gorilla in the Milwaukee zoo. He was famous because he was really, really, really fucking angry. We used to go to the zoo regularly and every time we’d join the huge crowds outside this gorilla’s tiny glass-walled cell and taunt him by banging on the glass.

Yes, you were actually allowed to do this in the 1960s. I did it too. Why not, the gorilla was scary, but I knew it couldn’t get me; so we teased the poor fucking ape and everyone would “whoop”, scream and holler when the gorilla came roaring at the glass and pounded it.

I have not been to a zoo for over 30 years and I will never, ever set foot inside one again. I am embarrassed at the way I behaved; I’m ashamed that I can’t remember the gorilla’s name. If I could, I would go back in time and stop myself and the crowds at Milwaukee zoo from sending that poor primate mad with our stupid and goading behaviour.

For over 40 years, I have remembered this story and I still harbour a small amount of guilt that I participated in the torture of that creature. I’m now a passionate advocate for animal rights and I still hate zoos.

The media today is treating Bailey Kurariki like that gorilla I remember so strongly from my childhood. Unfortunately, it is easy for journos and editors to treat people like exhibits arraigned behind thick glass for our entertainment. This is especially true of anyone deemed to be deviant [ie: deviating from social norms] and Junior Kurariki has been so deemed.

However, I have found one sympathetic stream of thought recently that I want to share. This is a post from “lopaki” on hiphopnz, a thread on the Back2Basics site:

I did a few workshops in Kingslea for Bailey and others a good while back when he was there and he struck me as a prima donna type kid well aware of the publicity and how acting up without remonstration led him to act out even more until he was. Then he threw a big wetty and stormed out, well at least to the door cos he couldn’t get through, it being a jail and all.

I got the feeling it was a show he regularly put on for visitors.

This latest episode just highlights how he is still trapped as a 12 yr old who went through puberty inside without normal guidance on what is acceptable behaviour by authority figures he could respect.

I mean, what can you do to a pubescent kid in jail who flops his doodle out for a laugh or for attention ? Lock him up some more ? And why should he bother listening to advice from do goody strangers when listening to advice from family got him locked up, considering he’s supposed to trust family.

How hard would it be then to play him out now and get him to do or say stupid shit, given that his personality, as defined from an early age, was one of being easily led and not realising the consequences of his actions ?

You can see here my parallel with the Milwaukee gorilla. It’s easy sport for the news media to goad and enrage someone like Bailey and then we can all bang the glass, stare and laugh along. Through the media’s distorting lens we can laugh at our fears and taunt the demon safely; knowing that it can’t break out of the glass-walled cage to really hurt us.

Unfortunately, this troubled young man is now facing serious charges of sexual assault and, if convicted, is likely to go back to jail again. No doubt that will make the dribblejaws happy and it will provide Laura Norder‘s whores a nice little earner; it will just further damage Bailey Junior Kurariki.

The sexual assault charges relate to an alleged incident in which it is claimed, by two Herald on Sunday reporters, that  Kurariki exposed himself, masturbated and “groped” one of them when, in late February 2010, they went to his home to do an interview about something else.

The story was reported in the Herald under this helpful headline:  Child killer becomes sex pest. So there can be no doubt that Kurariki is a monster.

And, conveniently, we  have further confirmation of this from Kurariki’s mother. She too lives in a glass-walled cage and now she’s sick, exasperated and frustrated. In other words, ripe for the taunting and a source of lurid quotes that I am betting she regrets:

TV3s’ Campbell Live presenter John Campbell visited Kurariki’s home yesterday, where he spoke to his mother, Lorraine West.

Kurariki had got “all dressed up” for court yesterday morning, Ms West said. When she was told her son may be arrested, she said it “may be the best thing” and that he had been “getting on my nerves”.

When she told her son to behave he would say he was nearly 21 and to stop nagging, she said.

“I’m always on at my friends, ‘Who’s got a gun with one bullet?’ That’s all I’d need, I’d shoot him. I brought him into this world and I’d shoot him.” [Scoop]

Good on you John! What an important scoop. Bailey’s mother wants to shoot her son. You let that horrible grab go to air why exactly? Did you not consider the stress she’s under? Did you not consider the further harm it might do?

No, you didn’t. But that’s how it is with trial by media. It’s all about pleasing the punters advertisers and playing up to stereotypes that make us comfortably numb in our own lives.

There must be doubt about the story of the alleged assaults until such time as Kurariki gets a day in court to answer the charges.

I have no special knowledge of this case and no reason do disbelieve the stories told by the HoS reporters describing their experiences.

But, similarly, I have no special knowledge of the circumstances that can automatically lead me to believe that their version is the only version of the truth.

Lopaki puts it in stronger terms than I might use, but I think her/his point is worth considering in terms of putting some perspective on this whole affair:

Here’s my take on it.

They went into his home totally unprepared for the eventuality that Bailey might not play to their rules. According to their report, when he allegedly exposed himself, the reporter didnt object and said nothing. Is it possible he, given his background, took that as a sign to continue for their benefit ? He supposedly masturbated ? She still said nothing but feeling flustered, gets a drink. As yet, no story worth shit. He allegedly gropes her ? Fair enough, time to leave, story got. Victim accomplished.

They knew he was under a media ban so they’ve effectively removed his right of reply in talking to a sympathetic media outlet or outing them himself as some sort of choreographed entrapment ruse.

So what point is there now in trying to defend a not guilty plea ? Its 2 against one and these “victims” are credible reporters, so of course they wouldn’t lie to sex up a story *bullshit*, especially if their jobs are on the line should it be found they misled the public.

Fair’s fair and everyone deserves the benefit of the doubt before trial by and conviction by the media. I just want to put the shoe on the other foot and regardless of whether they are “victims” of sexual assault, these two gutless journos deserve to be publically raked across the coals IMO.

Well, victims of alleged sexual assault do get some leniency in terms of identification, but I think lopaki’s point that perhaps they should have gone to the police and not made the incident into a story for the paper is actually a very good one.

I mean, ask yourself, would these journos have done the same thing if it were not ‘NZ’s youngest convicted killer’ ? Say it was a sporting hero, an ex all black lock on holiday in fiji. Would they publish an anonymous story claiming sexual abuse without first letting the police and courts go through the motions ?… i doubt it very much.

The 2 reporters made this story about them and as such should be identified in much the same manner as they identified Bailey, with no corroborating police evidence before the publication. The whole thing reeks of a set up and another example of brown bashing troubled, polynesian youth.

The decision to publish would not have been made by the reporters; that’s the editor’s responsibility.  And the temptation to publish – just like the temptation to bang on the glass to enrage the gorilla – would be almost irresistable.

Yes, of course, the incident was a “story”, but perhaps newspaper editors need to consider the bigger picture and at least acknowledge that there are consequences in publishing a story like this.

Maybe editors and reporters need to consider how they would have felt as a 12-year-old banging on the glass and how it would make them feel now.

Or maybe we could ask them: How would you feel as the gorilla behind the glass?

From memory that Milwaukee gorilla lived like that for more than 30 years. Does Bailey Junior Kurariki deserve the same fate?


I was so troubled that I couldn’t remember the name of the gorilla that I rang my father to ask him.

He couldn’t remember either, but while on the phone I suddenly recalled the name “Samson”.

Indeed that was his name. Samson, I’m sorry. You deserved much better. At least now you are honoured:

Nearly three decades after his death, Samson is still the most famous gorilla associated with the Milwaukee County Zoo. He even made the Guinness book of “Animal Facts and Feats” for his remarkable 652-pound peak weight.

[Samson’s keeper Sam LaMalfa remembers]

Free at last

“Probably the biggest memory the Zoo public has of Samson is of him pounding windows. Often Samson could be seen slapping at several of the 10 windows at the front of his exhibit. People often thought he was angry or trying to break out, but it wasn’t really for those reasons. I truly believe Samson as a large silverback male gorilla would have been the dominant leader of a troop. Gorillas are very social animals. Because he was captive and by himself, I feel he responded to Zoo visitors by getting their attention. The reaction made him feel dominant and in control of his public. People jumping back and screaming became one of his favorite games, sort of like cat and mouse. I feel he knew what people’s reactions would be. It was predictable to him and he liked the outcome. Actually, Samson was a shy, gentle giant.”

Text by Paula Brookmire

[Memories of Samson]

8 Responses to “Victim accomplished” Bailey Kurariki: [no] life in a glass-walled cage

  1. A fine posting Mr Hirst, a fine posting.

    [thanks for the compliment Chris, I shall see you soon EM]

  2. Kerry says:

    Well said.

    (We had a gorilla like that in the zoo in Malaya, it stays with me too.)

    Kurariki has been deprived normal development, and he is acting out. But the media, they are aggravating the situation in a disgusting fashion.
    [tx Kerry, EM]

  3. Tim Selwyn says:

    It’s manslaughter – not murder. Even the “media circus” with “the media’s distorting lens” managed to avoid that defamatory error. And nor would being hit once (I believe it was) count as being “brutal” in the context of what you claim is a murder.

    [Tx Tim, I stand corrected on that error, but I’m still not sure if you’re making a point about the post overall. My sentiment is close to that expressed by Bomber on Tumeki a year ago almost to the day.
    The original charge against Kurariki was murder; but eventually, manslaughter the conviction.]
    Was the death of Michael Choy brutal?
    You decide:

    A lawyer representing one of seven teenagers accused of murdering a pizza delivery man says the 15-year-old did not intend to kill but would plead guilty to manslaughter.

    The group are jointly charged with murdering Michael Choy, 40, after placing a bogus phone order and luring him to an address in south Auckland.

    The seven youngsters, five of whom can’t be identified, sat quietly in court as their lawyers spoke to the jury for the first time.

    None of them denies the group lured Choy with a bogus pizza order and none denies the group lay in wait to ambush him for food, drinks and cash.

    Ron Mansfield, who is defending the teenager accused of smashing Choy’s skull with a baseball bat, admitted his client carried the bat to the scene and that he had the bat in his possession when Choy arrived.

    The lawyer said what the teenager did was unlawful assault which unfortunately and horrifically caused death.

    “Given the opportunity my client would admit to manslaughter. He would admit hitting Michael Choy with the bat… but the Crown has elected to charge him with murder,” Mansfield said.

    Frank admission in Choy trial

    The child who shocked a nation by helping to kill a delivery man for pizza and a few dollars was smart with an air of confidence but driven by a need to impress others. That was the assessment of Justice Robert Fisher in the High Court at Auckland yesterday.

    In sentencing Bailey Junior Kurariki to seven years’ jail for manslaughter, the judge offered his own verdict on what could drive a boy of 12 to kill. Justice Fisher said Kurariki, now 13, was very much a child, a boy of low self-esteem, driven by a need to impress those older than himself.

    Last September 12, he acted as a decoy and gave the signal for Alex Peihopa to leap out and hit pizza delivery man Michael Choy.

    Justice Fisher said psychologists had found Kurariki to have average to high intelligence, although he had poor verbal skills due to his lack of schooling. The judge said Kurariki could not escape responsibility for what he had done – despite his youth.

    Kurariki was sentenced with five other youths, none older than 17, after a five-week trial. Most of the attention has focused on Kurariki, the youngest person in New Zealand to be convicted of manslaughter.

    Justice Fisher said the pre-sentence report showed some favourable things about Kurariki – in contrast with the “unauthorised public statements by disloyal staff” at the Kingslea Residential Centre in Christchurch.

    It was a shame, the judge said, that Kurariki continued to deny the critical facts. He clearly knew the delivery driver would be assaulted.

    Youngest killer jailed for 7 years

  4. Tim – it was a murder. Kurariki’s part in it was found to be manslaughter, but given that the principal offender was convicted of murder, I don’t think it wrong to claim that the death was a murder.

    [Graham, I’m still trying to work this out. Checking reports from 2002, EM]

  5. From a speech this morning [Sunday 28 March, 2010] by Lianne Dalziel, Labour’s justice spokesperson:

    I will see if you can answer a question I asked in Parliament recently: Who are Alexander Tokorua Peihopa and Whatarangi Rawiri? How about Phillip and Joe Kaukasi and Riki Rapira? Maybe this quote will help:

    Michael was brutally murdered nearly four years ago by six thugs, including this country’s youngest killer, Bailey Junior Kurariki.

    The first two were the two young people who murdered Michael Choy and the other three were the others, like Bailey Junior, who were convicted of manslaughter – two of whom have since been paroled with no media coverage that I could find. It actually took me ages to track down their names, because story after story after story reports the events as I have just read out. The angel faced 12 year old was the image that the media highlighted, which meant that Bailey Junior received a much greater punishment than those who were far more culpable for their actions than he who pretended to be the customer when Michael Choy arrived. I am not minimising his involvement – he was part of a group that predetermined to rob a delivery person and he played a role in that – but despite all the coverage, he did not kill Michael Choy.

    I am all for personal responsibility but what about parental responsibility and a wider sense of community responsibility encapsulated in that phrase – it takes a village to raise a child. He was 12 years old – not even old enough to babysit – when he was labelled ‘this country’s youngest killer’. Surely he was salvageable then – I really don’t know about now.

    I heard the interviewer on Morning Report this week ask whether the media attention was part of the problem Bailey Junior was facing. That would have to be the understatement of the year, but there is another side to it. If I were Bailey Junior, I would be grateful to have someone else to blame for what had happened to my life, and the media have provided him with that. The reason I would be grateful would be because it would mean I wouldn’t have to own up to the fact that I was involved in a shocking, brutal and senseless killing of a young man going about his lawful business. How different would things have been if Bailey Junior had not been subject to this exposure? Sadly we will never know.

    What will turn the tide?
    Speech at the National Restorative Justice Practitioners’ Conference 2010

  6. jennie says:

    One of the reporters involved in this story [name deleted by EM] has been involved in writing articles with an extremely personal slant and with no regard for the truth. She often brings a photographer who hides in the bushes and takes a photograph of the victim and publishes the most unflattering.

    [deleted by EM]

    She needs sensationalism to make up for her lack of morality and journalism skills.

    [I have edited this comment and removed the reporter’s name. I’ve done this for legal reasons – I am concerned about identifying a victim of alleged sexual assault. “Jennie” if you have further information to share on this case, by all means contact me via email. ethicalmartini[at]gmail.com
    Please don’t take my editing personally and be careful if you post further comments not to mention this reporter by name]

  7. John Rauner says:

    If you are able to put me in touch with Bailey Juniors mother (Lorraine West – looked but can’t find any contact info for her via whit pages etc) i’d like to offer her and her son help in avoiding the fiasco that looks set to continue indefinately with out intervention by somebody like myself able to control the media appropriately. She and her son were taken advantage of and it looks to me like the current charges were the result of creative statements by the two jurnos who intended getting a story no matter what.

    [EM: John, if you’re wanting to offer media advice, I suggest you get a good spell-checker first. Bailey was convicted over this incident in early November 2010]

  8. Emily Holden says:

    Very interesting to resd about these little thugs! Im researching the possibility of making a Film and have been wanting to speak to bailey. Actually I sent him a letter in jail with brochures on The modern apprenticeships that are runned by tecktra. I recommended this for him and his mrs with their baby on the way. There’s alot of temptation in the city boy! And I found a shearing contractor who is willing to train him up as a presser, in Taumaranui wth Macintoshes. Charlies the man I spoke to on Xmas day just gone. Wheather they passed on the messege or not I dont knowd, but one thing I do know, The day after I posted that letter off to him in jail, It fucking Poured down with rain at the top of the south! The flood gates were opened, Nau mai haere mai bailey! when ur ready. Just because you’ve neva lived sumwea in ur whole entire fucking life it dont mean you aint got bones and history there! You can find me on face book, Emily Holden.

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