(First published in the Nelson Mail and Manawatu Standard, June 29.)
How the police trapped the loathsome double murderer Kamal Reddy was brilliant – an example of patient, persistent and determined police work.
Reddy is the Auckland man who cold-bloodedly killed his girlfriend, Pakeeza Yusuf, because she didn’t want him in her life anymore. Then he used a pillow to smother her three-year-old daughter, Jojo, so she wouldn’t talk.
That was in 2006. Reddy buried his two victims under a bridge on Auckland’s North Shore. It wasn’t until seven years later that their disappearance was reported and a missing persons investigation launched.
Reddy was an obvious suspect but would probably have got clean away had the police not sprung an elaborate trap.
It started with a female undercover officer introducing herself to Reddy as a market surveyor and getting him to complete a questionnaire. That progressed to the female cop asking him to fix a car, then to value a vehicle that was purportedly being used as security against a loan.
The next step involved Reddy being introduced to a male undercover officer posing as a gang member, who asked him to do occasional jobs for cash.
From there the unsuspecting killer was gradually drawn into a web. It was so well plotted and so gradual that it would have seemed an entirely natural process.
Bit by bit, his involvement in the supposed gang was stepped up. He became involved in faked crimes.
He was given trial gang membership, then taken to the Bay of Plenty to sell pseudoephedrine. Later he helped destroy evidence handed to the gang by a supposedly crooked police officer in a set-up sexual assault case.
All this careful grooming culminated in Reddy eventually confessing to one of his gang associates that he had committed the two murders.
It must have been a “Gotcha!” moment for the cops. Hollywood scriptwriters could hardly have crafted a more dramatic script.
Reddy has now been jailed for life with a non-parole period of 21 years – a sentence richly deserved for a singularly callous crime.
Justice has been done. It would have been intolerable if Reddy, having not only killed Pakeeza and Jojo but subjected them to the appalling indignity of burying them in a place where they would lie undiscovered for seven years, with nothing to indicate they had ever even existed, had got away with it.
The circumstances were such that any misgivings about police using entrapment techniques were rightly swept aside. If ever there was a case of the end justifying the means, this was it.
It was good public relations for the police, coming at a time when they needed it. The case of Teina Pora, wrongly imprisoned for 20 years for raping and killing Susan Burdet, is a serious blot on their reputation (and also, it must be said, on the reputation of the judicial system which twice found Pora guilty).
The two cases serve as a reminder that the police are an imperfect human institution, capable of bad acts as well as good.
The conviction of Reddy can stand alongside other examples of outstanding New Zealand police work, one of which must be the capture of the French government terrorists who blew up the Rainbow Warrior in 1985. That remains a textbook example of smart police work.
Against that, there is a disconcerting record of police behaving badly or failing to properly discharge their obligation to uphold the rule of law.
A shocking example of the former emerged only two days after Reddy was sentenced, when the Independent Police Conduct Authority was sharply critical of an Upper Hutt police sergeant and a police dog handler who arrested the wrong man.
Without pausing to verify the identity of the man – who was 24 years older than the suspect the police were looking for and looked nothing like him – the police officers dragged him out of his house, handcuffed him and forced him to the ground. In the process, he was bitten by a police dog.
When his wife protested, one cop yelled at her and called her a “f***** bitch”. All this was witnessed by the man’s four-year-old granddaughter and by neighbours. Ironically, the man was a former police dog handler himself.
On the face of it, this was a case of two arrogant, out-of-control cops pumped up on testosterone and blatantly abusing their power.
The wrongly arrested man called the two officers incompetent and a disgrace to the uniform. No reasonable person could disagree. In fact most people reading the IPCA report would conclude these men were not fit to be police officers.
A police spokesperson told The Dominion Post that “internal employment action” was taken against the miscreant cops but wouldn’t disclose what form that action took.
Does this encourage confidence in the police? Not at all.
The good PR done for the police by the conviction of Reddy would have largely been negated by the actions of these two incompetent bullies. For that reason alone they deserved to be assigned to the lost property office for the rest of their careers.