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Cruel farewell from the city of dreams

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    Cruel farewell from the city of dreams - 15-Jan-2006
    Konrad Kahuroa came to Auckland to be rich, famous, glamorous and successful in his fashion career. But the boy from Southland found a dark side to big city life. TONY WALL looks at how it all went wrong.

    Konrad Kahuroa didn't much like Auckland... and New Zealand's biggest city was the death of him.

    The young Southland-born model moved to Auckland to pursue his dreams of becoming rich, famous and "glam". He was dead within a year.

    A high achiever, the 24-year-old had attended Sydney's Epping Boys' High and finished in the top percentile at Otago Boys'. He died alone on the asphalt of a motorway offramp on Saturday, December 3, his body battered and broken after a fall.

    Police are satisfied nobody else was directly implicated in his death but two detectives are investigating whether there is any evidence to support gang rape allegations made by Kahuroa in the days before the incident. Family and friends believe this was the catalyst for his death.

    Kahuroa was born in Tuatapere, Southland on September 2, 1981. He studied psychology, chemistry and statistics at Otago University, but it was his passion for fashion that ruled his heart.

    He would "redecorate" his clothes to make them more glamorous, and even once took one of his mother's woollen cardigans, cut off the sleeves and part of the waist and started wearing it.

    Kahuroa told his mother he was gay when he was about 18. He had been modelling for department stores in Dunedin since he was about 14, and dreamed of producing his own shows.

    In 2002 he set up his first fashion show, the Schwarzkopf Professional Summer Fashion Stage, then set up the Selection! Spring/Summer Fashion Show in Dunedin in 2003, establishing a similar show in Wellington the following year.

    He and television production veteran Phil Rogers set up a company called Long Cloak Productions (the English translation of Kahuroa) to continue event management and multi-media work.

    Rogers said: "He never had any money, he was living from hand to mouth." He had a couple of "sugar daddies" - wealthy men - in Wellington who would look after him. Rogers said Kahuroa's main aim was to become rich and famous and with that in mind, he thought he would give Auckland a go.

    Initially he found Auckland a struggle. He had hoped to produce shows for Fashion Week but the only work he got was as a host in a bar area. But things began to take off.

    Late last year he organised the launch of Australian fashion label Pierucci International in The Chancery.

    He enrolled in South Seas Film and Television School, and a talent agency put him on its books.

    He set up his own website, saying in his biography: "In my short time in this world, I have seen and experienced many things. Some people dream of the moments I have enjoyed. At the same time I have also had moments that would have made them give up living altogether, and find truth in the saying, if it doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger!"

    Things started going wrong for Kahuroa in the first week of December. The alleged rape happened on the Monday, he became more and more upset as the week progressed, and the Star-Times has learned that at about 1am on the Saturday he died, he arrived at the Auckland Hospital emergency department.

    His mother said he told hospital staff he had been hit by a car, and that he may have stepped in front of it. Sergeant Steve Samuels of Auckland police said the hospital records would be sought by subpoena.

    Kahuroa is believed to have spent several hours at the hospital before discharging himself. By 2pm, he was dead.

    Police are now speaking to his friends and colleagues, going through his phone records, and appealing for anyone with information to come forward, even anonymously.

    Samuels said: "There is a lot of rumour and innuendo. Finding out what is fact and what is fiction is quite a job. Quite a lot of people go into `cover your arse' mode."

    Some fear the drug and gang connections of one of the men allegedly involved in the incident.

    Kahuroa told ex-boyfriend James Burgess and others that he was taken to a house in Auckland's inner west by a group of men he met at a bar.

    He said he was injected with methamphetamine and raped by up to five men, who videotaped the ordeal.

    He claimed the male who owned the house dropped him back in downtown Auckland, warning him he'd be killed if he told anyone what had happened. Or as he told friends, "they'd cut my arms off".

    He repeated the story to other friends, and told his mother, Tangiwai Tahi, he was "in really big trouble".

    One of Kahuroa's closest friends, who also knows the homeowner, said the man was known for his predatory behaviour, including getting young men "sideways" on drugs before having sex with them. "It's his MO - he's been doing it for years."

    Police are yet to speak to the man, but plan to interview him. The Star-Times has learned he is widely known as a drug dealer, and has Headhunters and Hell's Angels connections.

    The friend, who asked not to be identified because he feared the man's gang connections, said he believed there were about 20 gay men in Auckland who operated in a similar way.

    The scene had become "hugely dangerous" since the advent of pure methamphetamine, which was a sexual stimulant but also led to serious psychotic episodes.

    The friend said Kahuroa was an "A-grade target" for predators because of his striking looks and low self-esteem.

    Kahuroa, who enjoyed the occasional cannabis joint, was not thought to have tried P before. But he showed all the symptoms of P psychosis in the days before his death, at one point stripping naked and insisting he had been bugged. Those who met him in those final days say he was terrified his life was in danger.

    The gay community is split on how common it is for young men to find themselves the target of "predators".

    Documentary maker David Herkt said it was too simplistic to say wealthy predators were targeting young men. From what he had seen, most of the young men were more than happy to partake in the drugs and money on offer. "It's hard to tell who's using who the most," he said.

    Auckland University PhD psychology student John Fenaughty spent four years studying gay men's experiences with forced, pressured or unwanted sex, speaking to 70 people.

    One of his findings was that alcohol, rather than drugs, was the most common substance used to coerce men into having sex. Fenaughty said that like their heterosexual counterparts, gay men did not see themselves as vulnerable to rape, and had feelings of guilt and shame afterwards.

    "The rape of men is very, very infrequently mentioned."

    Apart from the conviction of bar owner Philip Sturm for sexually violating four men in 2003, he had not heard of cases of wealthy men targeting younger members of the gay community.

    The Aids Foundation says it will ask about recreational drug use for the first time when it conducts a periodic sex survey in the gay community this year.

    Burgess, Kahuroa's ex-boyfriend, said that while he seemed extroverted, he was shy, with low self confidence, and may have been taken advantage of because of that.

    "He might not have been as streetwise as he thought he was. He was from Dunedin - you could go home with anyone in Dunedin and be sweet as."
    Ref: - Sunday Star Times

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