Convicted rapist sentenced to 16 years jail

Pihi Hei was sentenced at the High Court in Tauranga on Monday. Photo: Matt Shand/Stuff.

A foreign worker who was raped almost daily at a remote Bay of Plenty retreat says her life is now a "living hell".

Her convicted rapist, Pihi Hei, 63, was sentenced to 16 years jail, with a minimum non-parole period of nine years, at the High Court in Tauranga on Monday.

He was found guilty during a trial in March of 25 sex offences, including sexual violation by rape, and one additional charge of stupefaction.

The charges stem from incidents at the remote Maraehako Bay Retreat, where Hei was a director, in 2013 and 2017.

Delivering her victim impact statement, Hei's 2017 victim said he had robbed her of her innocence and taken away her positive outlook on life.

"You made my life a living hell," the Japanese woman told Hei.

"I suffer from eating disorders, anxiety, depression and have been diagnosed with PTSD."

She said her brief encounter with New Zealand had ruined her life.

She lost her innocence, her friends and her family who had abandoned her as a result of her rape.

"I wake with nightmares," she said. "I have no hope for the future anymore."

During the trial, the jury heard that she ended up at the retreat after responding to an advertisement overseas asking for "nice Japanese people to help clean paradise".

However, on arrival it was anything but with the victim saying Hei raped her at a Hamilton hotel on the same night she arrived.

She then reported being raped almost daily whilst back at the retreat, situated between Te Kaha and Waihou Bay.

More shame came when she testified at trial, with her family telling her not to do so.

"They even went so far to say that if you do not listen to us you're not welcome. Don't come back to your home ever again."

But she said she wanted to save others the same fate.

"My moral integrity was on trial. I had to do what I could."

Hei responded in court by yelling out: "I never did anything wrong and you know it".

But she continued.

"Everybody who believes as he does needs to be brought to justice."

Crown prosecutor Heidi Wrigley called for a lengthy sentence, saying an example needed to be set.

She argued that, as well as the damage caused to Hei's victims, he had also damaged New Zealand's reputation as a safe place for tourism.

She asked for a starting point of 16 years with a minimum term of imprisonment.

Hei's lawyer Russel Fairbrother argued a starting point of 14 years saying Hei had a real chance of rehabilitation.

During the trial, Wrigley said Hei preyed on particular type of women and used their vulnerability, dependency and reluctance to report offences to take sex from them at his isolated retreat.

Both complainants were young, petite Asian women whom Hei had limited interaction with when he offered them the job. The two complainants had never met each other or heard each other's story before trial.

Hei's first victim, a Chinese woman who worked at the retreat in 2013, spoke at the trial of being raped by Hei one night after he asked for a foot massage.

She said she was dragged into a room by Hei who took off her clothes and raped her.

The next morning she says she awoke to find Hei sleeping beside her and she says she was raped again.

"I remember saying how could you do this to me?" she told the jury.

She used art work to try and get her through the ordeal.

Judge Ingram said Hei's offending in relation to the Japanese victim was premeditated and serious.

"Both defendants were dependant on you and both have been subject to rape," he said.

"I regard that as a serious aggravating factor."

Ingram sentence Hei to 14 years jail for the rape of the Japanese victim and nine years for the woman of Chinese descent. However the sentences, combined, would be manifestly unjust given Hei's age if run as concurrent sentences, he said.

This led to the 14-year sentence being uplifted to 17 years and a 12 month reduction for mitigating factors. Making the final sentence 16 years.

The minimum non-parole period was imposed to send a strong message, not just for the harm done to the woman, but the country.

"You have done New Zealand's international reputation harm with this incident reported in international media."

Hei's family and supporters yelled at the victim as they left court.

-Stuff/Matt Shand

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