The man dubbed the ‘Urban Predator’ after he raped two Christchurch women and attempted another rape within 11 months has died.
The name Lawrence (Lex) Kanohi became synonymous with evil in 1993 after a lifetime of crime, including three rapes and more than 100 burglaries.
At the time of his imprisonment, the police suggested there could be many more unsolved sexual assaults in the city he was responsible for.
If there was, Kanohi took it to the grave.
The audaciousness of Kanohi’s crimes lived long in the minds of those who investigated him, including Detective Brendan Bateman who said behind the rapist’s “jovial, likable character” was a “shark waiting to strike”.
It was to be his final crime that proved to be the most chilling, when Kanohi raped a woman in her 20s in December 1992 in front of her 3 and 5-year-old daughters.
Unknown to the woman at the time, Kanohi had already attempted to rape her in February, after she had fallen asleep in her home and left a door open.
On medication at the time, the woman woke up to find a man on top of her. The man gave up after a struggle, and the police never connected Kanohi to the attack due to the woman mistakenly believing he was a person of European descent.
But two days before Christmas Kanohi returned. This time the woman knew straight away who the man was.
After two burglaries at her home in 1991, Kanohi knocked on the woman’s door, and claimed he had run out of gas. He asked to use the telephone. He then returned three times after the incident to give lollies to the woman’s daughters.
But she noticed his questions became more and more personal.
“Where’s your husband?” he would ask. “Do you have a boyfriend?”
This time the woman woke up to him standing by her bed as her 5-year-old daughter lay sleeping beside her.
As he attacked the woman, her 3-year-old daughter woke up and walked into the bedroom causing Kanohi to scream at her to go back to bed.
He then dragged the woman into another room, freeing the 5-year-old girl who quickly rang her grandmother, who subsequently called the police.
A neighbor would end up apprehending Konohi, but it was to be the tip of the iceberg, as the police began to link him to a number of burglaries and another rape.
Just a month before, Kanohi had raped a 51-year-old woman on Guy Fawkes night. After smothering her with a pillow and duvet, he seemed in no urgency to leave and showed no fear of being caught.
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Instead, he remained motionless for four minutes before telling the traumatized women she was a “very nice person”. He also told her he wished he could have met her under different circumstances and feigned an apology.
Before he left he asked the woman to kiss him.
Although Kanohi had been in and out of jail and youth borstal between 1959-1979 he had a clean police record from 1980 to 1992.
None of his friends or the many women he liked to impress by splashing the cash (according to news reports at the time), knew the evil he was capable of. Even his freight trucking company boss had no inkling of Kanohi’s past when he hired him.
Already a delinquent at age 20, Kanohi had been convicted of raping a 47-year-old woman in Lower Hutt in 1965, after he raped her when she arrived home while he was burglarizing her house. In prison for five years, he re-entered prison in 1970 for the burglary of the Oxford Workingmen’s club in Christchurch.
Three months after release in 1972 he attempted to rape Betty Bassett in her St. Martins home, but he was never charged with sex offenses and reports at the time say Bassett never spoke about the incident.
In 1992, the police would eventually find a household of stolen property from Kanohi’s burglaries and would describe him as a one-man crime wave.
Kanohi was sentenced to preventive detention in 1993 and spent 30 years in prison, but his violent acts lived long in the city’s history – as did stories of his veneer of normality to friends and family.
Having grown up in what was described as a “good household” in Rotorua with his grandmother, his actions perplexed those who knew him.
Investigative journalist Martin Van Beynen was just two years into his new career as a court reporter when he covered Kanohi’s case.
He remembers Kanohi well.
“He had a mask of decency,” he recalls. “A smoothness.”
The Parole Board confirmed Kanohi died on January 14.