An Auckland man has admitted manslaughter and driving-related charges after a triple fatal crash in Hamilton nearly three years ago.
Reuben William Maharaj, of Glenfield, was due to stand trial in the High Court at Hamilton next week on three charges of manslaughter of Jeremy, 47, and Tania Kay, 44, and Grace Hill, 16, and one charge of dangerous driving causing injury to Mitchell Kay.
However, in a brief appearance via audio visual link before Justice Graham Lang today, Maharaj entered guilty pleas, bringing to an end a long fight for justice by the Kay and Hill families.
Mitchell Kay had just gone to pick up his parents and girlfriend, Hill, from a 21st birthday just after midnight on November 11.
At the same time, Maharaj, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia but was unmedicated at the time, had earlier fled his parents in one of their vehicles from their North Shore home after an argument.
Other motorists had noticed Maharaj’s “aggressive” driving on the journey south before he entered Avalon Dr.
About 800m south of the roundabout, Maharaj, now aged 34, accelerated and drove with a sudden or sharp swerve, crossing the centre line into the oncoming northbound traffic and collided with the Holden Trax being driven by Kay.
Witnesses described seeing a “big puffy [sic] of black smoke” coming out of Maharaj’s exhaust, and he appeared to be speeding up, before he was seen driving on the wrong side of the wrong.
Kay was in his correct lane, driving about 78km/h, and tried to take evasive action, by braking and swerving. The vehicles ultimately collided, killing his parents and girlfriend.
Kay was hospitalised with a cracked vertebra, a fractured skull, broken collar bone andbruised lungs.
When spoken to by emergency services, Maharaj acknowledged that he had struck the Kay’s vehicle and apologised for their deaths.
He said he had left his home as he was having “problems with his life situation and just wanted to get away after an argument with his parents”, the court summary of facts stated.
Maharaj was convicted by Justice Lang and remanded for sentencing in Hamilton in September.
Justice Lang also acknowledged the more than dozen family members of the three victims, including Mitchell Kay, who were in the public gallery to hear the guilty pleas confirmed.
“I know this has been a very difficult and trying period for you. This trial is easily the oldest trial in this registry for several reasons.”
Those reasons included Maharaj changing his lawyer part way through, an “extensive” investigation being carried out into Maharaj’s fitness to plead and the Covid pandemic.
“All of those have combined to mean that you have had to wait for nearly three years to see this matter to come to a conclusion.
“That is a matter of profound regret for everybody involved in this proceeding including the court.
“Now at least you have the closure of knowing Mr Maharaj has accepted formally, and legally, his responsibility for the act that killed your loved ones and seriously injured one of them. This means you will not have to go through the trauma of a two-week trial re-living the circumstances that led to those tragedies.
“Of course nothing that happens in this court process can do anything to bring back your loved ones and stem the grief that you undoubtedly suffer.”
Outside court this morning, Kay’s grandmother and Jeremy Kay’s mother, Robbie Kay, together with Linda Kay’s mother, Linda Rowe, said they were pleased by the guilty pleas and said it was a relief.
“We’re just relieved that it’s over and he’s pleaded guilty after nearly three years.”
History of suicide attempts
Maharaj had been hospitalised on multiple occasions since 2013 complaining of voices in his head.
He had on more than one occasion driven his vehicle dangerously in response to the voices.
On August 8, 2015, Maharaj had requested mental health services at North Shore DHB to get in touch with him on his cellphone.
He reported driving faster than the speed limit the previous night and had thoughts of driving into a traffic island. He had driven outside road markings due to being angry and frustrated at the voices in his head.
And a month later, on September 5, he drove his vehicle into a concrete wall.
Again, he told health services he did that due to the voices in his head. He was also unmedicated at the time.