David Fisher — NZ Herald July 8, 2018
The widow who told the world her politician husband was a paedophile says he was involved in a ring of abusers which goes to “the highest heights you can imagine”.
In an exclusive interview, Anihera Zhou Black told the Herald: “This goes deep and wide, in terms of the paedophile ring, to the highest heights you can imagine. These people aren’t just labourers and workers at fast food restaurants. These people are suits and people in power.”
Awanui Black died aged 48 in 2016.
He was a regional councillor, Maori Party political aspirant, a commissioner at the Maori Language Commission, lecturer at Te Wananga o Raukawa and Treaty of Waitangi negotiator for Ngati Pukenga.
He was also a paedophile, according to Zhou Black’s gut-wrenching Facebook Live broadcast yesterday.
Zhou Black, 49, with the support of sister Piiata Tiakitai-Turi, 50, said today her decision to denounce her former husband was intended to give strength to victims of abuse.
She told of her belief Black had used their marriage to mask his predatory sexual behaviour towards children and her growing horror as she realised he was not the man she had believed him to be.
The couple had met aged 15 and were in a relationship from 18. He went on to become a highly-regarded pillar of the Bay of Plenty community and someone with the mana required to stand on the national stage.
But for Zhou Black, it was an ascent she had little part in.
“Our relationship is one where I never had a voice through our marriage. I had been conditioned, groomed, to be the quiet wife.”
Her Facebook Live post – based on partial admissions from Black and disclosures from others – came after 26 years of silence.
The truth, as she now believes it to be, had to fight against his “grooming” of her to play a role which covered who he really was.
“I had painted a picture of who he was and along with everybody else, it was a picture he wanted us to see.
“I had held onto that with everything I had, supported everything he did and let him go off and do kaupapa and I looked after our children and looked after our household and just did what I had to do to support him.”
Now, she believed he had used their marriage as a mask for his “private life” – one that included affairs with consenting adults, abuse against children and large amounts of alcohol.
“He did admit to me that he thought he was rangatira and he thought he was entitled to have women wherever he slept for the night. That might have rolled a few hundred years ago but it’s not what I signed up for.
“He was never ever faithful. Prostitutes, orgies, group sex – all of it.”
And there were children, she said. The youngest victim to have emerged was someone who had said they were aged 8 when sexually abused by Awanui Black.
Zhou Black said the couple separated in 2012, during which time he admitted affairs and using pre-teen pornography. There was a reconciliation a year later but the time away gave Zhou Black a voice she felt she never had and the reunion never worked.
In 2014, they separated again and stayed apart.
Zhou Black said during these time she would yearn for him to tell her the truth.
Her sister said it was an impossible request because, once a string of marital infidelities were swept aside, the truth was much darker and far worse.
“The sad thing with Awa is that he knew if he told her the truth, there was no going back from that. He knew what the outcome of that was.”
Anihera Zhou Black said in the time which followed there came disclosures, and events which occurred that answered questions in her mind from her years married to Awanui Black.
It had led her to believe there was a “ring” of people who – with her former husband – had preyed on children.
She said she would be speaking with police but believed an independent investigation could be necessary as one of those she believed was involved had been a police officer.
“We don’t know where the cover-up will begin. There are compromised police here in Tauranga that are part of that ring. I know of one.”
She would also not name a number of suspected victims, again because it could jeopardise the police inquiry.
“It’s an unknown figure, to be honest. I have knowledge of some but whoever else is out there, we’ve just had so many people come through our lives.”
Zhou Black said Black had been abused as a child and the experience had warped his actions.
She said she believed his actions as a predator drove his alcohol abuse.
pic a mural of te Awanui black
His cause of death was officially listed as “organ failure”, which she said was caused by alcohol abuse.
“He killed himself. It was suicide by alcohol. He did that deliberately. He couldn’t live with everything that was going to be exposed. It was just a matter of time.”
She had confronted him and he had denied the claims.
“He was very defensive. And he became quite violent with that defensiveness.”
She believed her insistence meant that he knew the questions would soon be asked publicly.
“It wasn’t something I could condone or keep quiet about. This was a while ago. It’s taken me a number of years to get to where I got to yesterday.
“What he knew was that everything was crumbling. The facade he had carefully manicured over the years was coming down and he would be exposed. That’s what he knew. That’s why he took himself out.”
In the days after her former husband’s death, Zhou Black had a number of shocks, including childhood friends of her husband’s telling her of abuse he had suffered as a boy.
There was also physical evidence left on his mobile phone, which had been passed to her. On it was a photograph of a naked teenage girl – sent by the girl at his encouragement.
Tiakitai-Turi said: “They were communicating and he was grooming her at that stage.”
There had already been disclosures which led to this point and overnight had come more.
“Things are tumbling out all over the place. Revelations, and people talking about things. In my mind, retrospectively, you can start to see a pattern.”
Prior to his death, there was a genuine fear among victims of stepping forward.
“People were really afraid to talk. Some still are.”
Tiakitai-Turi said his mana and standing in the community silenced victims who doubted they would be believed.
“With particular victims, there were things he could do that made those victims not ever want to speak. And part of that was his status. Who would you believe? That (victim) or the guy with the status.”
Tiakitai-Turi said many of those who were close to Awanui Black who had expressed anger was struggling with questions over their own friendship and judgment.
She said they would be asking themselves, “How could I get it so wrong?”.
But she said everyone – herself included – had made the same mistake.
There are now growing calls from Bay of Plenty community leaders for police to investigate the claims.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council chairman Doug Leeder said the allegations were extremely serious in nature.
“I think it is only appropriate that the respective authorities look into what has been alleged, which I am in no doubt they will do,” he said.
A police spokesperson said they were aware of the video and would be seeking further information about the allegations.
In Tauranga, artist Graham Hoete, also known as Mr G, started painting over a mural he had made of Black.