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Letter from Elsewhere: The Invisible Victim

Letter from Elsewhere - By Anne Else

The Invisible Victim

The Sunday Star Times for 1 February devotes a large amount of space to a new film about David Dougherty, who spent three years in prison after being convicted of abducting his neighbour, an eleven year old girl, and raping her at knifepoint in 1992.

An SST reporter at the time, Donna Chisholm, was heavily involved in working to prove Dougherty's innocence. This was established in 1997 through forensic evidence. Chisholm figures largely in the SST’s coverage.

As the NZ Herald reported on 31 May 2003, Nicholas Reekie was correctly identified and convicted as the rapist in this case, and also in three other rapes committed between 2001 and 2002. Reekie knew Dougherty, and at the time he told his victim he was David. The Sunday Star Times coverage does not mention this; all it says is that she claimed David Dougherty was her attacker. Four months later Reekie abducted two girls, was arrested and pleaded guilty.

When he was convicted, his earlier victim spoke publicly for the first time. His conviction came as an immense relief. She had felt guilty for years about Dougherty: “I think if I put the wrong man in jail then I'm a really terrible person. It wasn't deliberate... I've blamed myself for the last 10 1/2 years and I've always thought it must have been my fault in some ways, and I've put myself through hell because of it."

As if the rape wasn’t bad enough, it’s clear that the judicial system itself, and other people, have also been putting her through hell since she was eleven years old. She had to give evidence at three trials, and refute accusations of lying. Not until 2003 did she discover that in 1997, the police had stated that she might have opened her door to someone she knew and had consensual sex.

Her ordeal did not end with Reekie’s conviction. Some people said her original misidentification of Dougherty had allowed Reekie to go on and commit his later rapes. Apparently this was her fault too.

The Sunday Star Times hardly mentions the victim at all. The entire focus is on Dougherty and Chisholm and his other supporters.

He received a public apology and nearly $900,000 in compensation. The victim has not yet received an apology from anyone.

Now this new film and the self-serving media publicity about it will force her to relive the whole dreadful business – both the rape and its aftermath - all over again.

[Correction: My apologies. The NZ Herald article quoted in "The invisible victim" originally appeared on 31 May 2003 (now corrected in the column). This is why the victim spoke of feeling guilty for over ten years. Reekie was in Mt Eden for the second abduction when Dougherty was imprisoned in 1993. Reekie got out in December 2001 and reoffended soon afterwards. He was convicted and imprisoned for the 1992 rape and the three later rapes in 2003.]


- Anne Else is a Wellington writer and social commentator. Her occasional column will typically appear on a Monday. You can subscribe to receive Letter From Elsewhere by email when it appears via the Free My Scoop News-By-Email Service. Anne blogs at

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