High-ranking Northland police officer on trial for sexual assault

Author
Jared Savage, NZ Herald,
Section
Crime,
Publish Date
Monday, 11 February 2019, 3:23p.m.

Two women – one a victim of domestic violence - who put their trust in a police officer now accuse him of sexually assaulting them.

Kevin Stephen Burke, now a detective inspector in Northland, faces two charges of indecent assault and two of unlawful sexual connection.

His trial in the High Court at Auckland started this morning and the charges relate to two female complainants.

The alleged offending happened in 2002 and 2003 when Burke was a detective in the Auckland region and the two women met him during separate criminal investigations he was involved in.

Burke stood in the dock to plead not guilty to all charges.

In her opening statement to the jury, Crown prosecutor Jo Murdoch said the two female complaints – who are unconnected - came from "very different worlds and led very different lives".

"The Crown says the complainants have one thing in common – the defendant sexually assaulted them after they put their trust and confidence in him."

The first complainant was similar in age to Burke, in her 40s, while the second complainant was in her 20s, at the time of the alleged offending.

The older woman met with Burke in 2002 to discuss her dealings with a fraudster the detective was investigating.

A few weeks after Burke met her in a professional capacity, the Crown says the police officer turned up uninvited at the woman's Auckland home one evening.

He was carrying a box of beer and a bottle of wine, said Murdoch, and the pair talked for several hours on the deck of the woman's home.

The woman did not consume any alcohol but thought Burke was too drunk to safely drive, said Murdoch.

So she offered him a bed in the spare room, where the Crown alleges, that Burke started to kiss her.

Murdoch told the jury Burke allegedly overpowered the woman, pinned her arms above her head, before digitally penetrating her.

She managed to break free of his grip and spent a sleepless night in her own room, said Murdoch, as Burke stayed the night in the spare room.

The alleged attack was recorded in the woman's diary, said Murdoch, although she did not make a complaint at the time.

"She didn't want to be a victim and got on with her life," said Murdoch, saying the woman never saw Burke again about the fraudster she was investigating.

In response, Burke's defence counsel Arthur Fairley presented a different narrative to the jury.

Fairley said his client was invited to the woman's home, the sexual contact was consensual, and the pair met for coffee and dinner – even after the alleged assault.

He said Burke had absolutely no sexual contact "at any stage, shape, or form" with the second complainant.

She was much younger, in her 20s, and in a violent relationship with a notorious criminal.

Burke was the officer in charge of investigating one particular assault where the woman was stabbed by her partner.

An entry in Burke's notebook calculated their age difference – 19 years- at one of their first meetings, Murdoch said.

"An indication of his state of mind when he first met the complainant," the Crown prosecutor suggested to the jury.

The second complainant was in a "bad place" with her volatile lifestyle, said Murdoch, and saw Burke as a caring and professional police officer.

But Murdoch said others, who will be called as witnesses in the trial, thought Burke's support of the woman "blurred professional lines".

The complainant and Burke continued to keep in touch, as she faced her own criminal charges.

One Friday evening, the jury was told the detective turned up at her home with a bottle of wine and a pizza.

The pair was joined by the woman's older flatmate, but the complainant went to bed feeling the effects of the alcohol.

The Crown says Burke came into her room, undressed, got into bed with her, then rubbed his groin up and down her back, before falling asleep.

A few weeks later, the Crown alleged Burke returned to the house and pinned her up against the wall to grope her buttocks and breast, as well as grinding his groin into her.

On a third occasion, the Crown says he exposed himself to the woman, then forcibly performed oral sex on her.

She later moved away to Australia and with the distance of time, made a formal complaint about Burke's alleged sexual behavior in 2017.

When interviewed by police, about each complainant twice, Burke categorically denied any sexual impropriety with the second complainant.

He said the sexual contact with the first complainant was consensual.

The 61-year-old Burke was suspended from the police in April 2017 when a criminal investigation began – run by detectives based in Christchurch – before the criminal charges were laid in December the same year.

The trial before Justice Sarah Katz is scheduled to last two weeks.

 

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