She was just 21 when she was targeted by the monsters of Mama Hooch. Now, in an exclusive interview with Thomas Mead, a woman shares the full story of her five-year fight for justice.
Warning: This article discusses sexual assault and may be distressing to some readers.
February 22, 2023
As the minutes ticked down, Rosie wrapped herself in a weighted blanket.
She had found refuge in a side room at the Christchurch District Court, the pale glass panels serving as her own personal bunker.
In the courtroom next door, a group of lawyers were watching a video of the moment she was raped. Sitting in the backbenches, was the man who raped her. The process was methodical. Every single frame being analysed, scrutinised, dissected. Soon, Rosie would be scrutinised too.
She had never even been to a court before, let alone testified in one.
The detective had advised her to dress as if she was going to an interview. In the end, she decided on a black skirt and a black blazer, rushing to a store near the courthouse to find shoes to match.
Years of quiet courage had brought her to this point. And as the clock ticked down, her little bunker was busy. Her parents and fiancé sat with her, providing distractions. Police officers came and went, victim support brought tissues.
She would need one last round of courage today. The blanket was still around her shoulders; she unwrapped it, leaving its warmth behind.
She was led into the hallway, the bunker disappearing out of view.
The door to Courtroom 19 swung open.
In all, she was one of 32 women, across a massive multi-year police investigation, which encompassed a litany of allegations from disabling and stupefying to indecent assault, sexual violation, and rape.
In a six-week trial, held for a judge alone in February and March this year, two men were convicted on 68 of the 113 charges they faced. There was evidence to prove they had drugged 17 women between them, and sexually assaulted the same number.
For years, they enjoyed the protection of name suppression. We can now reveal they are brothers who worked or volunteered at Mama Hooch in Christchurch.
They were both well-known figures at the drinking spot. The eldest brother, Danny Jaz, was the bar manager. The younger, Roberto Jaz, would often help his brother to serve drinks after finishing work for the night as a chef at a restaurant a few doors down.
The evidence shows that, between 2015 and 2018, they repeatedly targeted patrons.
Often, that meant putting substances in the drinks they were serving, taking advantage of young women who were supposed to be in their care.
On several occasions, the drugging led to degrading sexual assaults.
Danny, 40, would typically bring young women into the toilets at Mama Hooch. Roberto, 37, would lure women from the bar to Venuti, the Italian restaurant he worked at down the street.
Not even staff at the bar were exempt. Text messages obtained by police show the brothers repeatedly targeted waitresses.
They would swap photos of current and prospective staff on Whatsapp, writing “new waitress boys, who wants it”.
It’s not known exactly what drug they used, but their messages regularly reference the party drug MDMA. They also discuss the date rape drug Rohypnol, known as a “roofie”.
In one of the most brazen examples, Roberto told a friend he had “smashed” a “Brazilian” at the restaurant.
Police were never able to identify the Brazilian woman, but provided the text messages to the court to show his mindset.
“I just walked to the restaurant, and she followed,” Roberto wrote to a mate on WhatsApp.
“What about before, I thought u said she wasn’t keen [sic],” the friend responded.
“Roffies [sic]”, was Roberto’s reply.
Rosie was 21 when it happened.
And for a year afterwards, she thought she was alone.
“I just partied, and I stopped really caring about myself,” she said. “I didn't care what happened to me anymore, which is sad to say now, but that's the truth.”
At first, Rosie – that’s not her real name – tried to forget. She describes it now as defensive behaviour, her weekends a blur of partying and heavy drinking.
“It was a moment where I could focus on having a good time and not having to focus on what had happened to me, or have to talk to somebody about it,” she said.
At its worst, she thought about hurting herself.
“I felt like it would have been less painful than having to deal with this feeling every single day.”
Then one day in August 2018, courage came calling. It was a message that came out of the blue, a friend sharing a news article through Facebook.
“Two women say they were drugged and sexually assaulted at a central city restaurant,” the first line said.
Rosie was in shock. A police officer had been quoted, saying the women had been drinking at Mama Hooch.
“It was like a wave of emotion, and my head started spinning,” Rosie said.
“It triggered a part of me.”
There was a number in the article, directing readers to police.
She called it.
By September 7, 2018, she was in an interview room with Senior Constable Sonya Lemmens.
After a year held in secret, the story was now pouring out.
She had been preparing to take a trip overseas, she decided to go out for one last night with friends. They had some pre-drinks. They went to Baretta. They went to Mama Hooch. And there, they ran into a man she knew, named Roberto Jaz.
Roberto offered to buy her a drink.
“We cheersed and he said, ‘We’ll skull it’, and I said, ‘Yeah OK down in one’,” Rosie told the police officer.
“I skulled it, and then he said, ‘meet me outside in 20 minutes’.”
When she didn’t come outside, Danny – Roberto’s brother – arrived, and grabbed her by the hand, she said. She recounted feeling very strange soon after the drink, as if her mind was “completely gone”.
She told police Danny had led her to Venuti, a few doors down, helping her up when she fell on the way.
It was afterhours. Waiting in the back by the kitchen, she said, was Roberto. On the bench were several lines of white powder.
“They kind of said, ‘do a line’. Like, ‘we’re all doing one’. I was like, ‘I’ve never really done it before’, and they said they’d help me, and they did,” Rosie told police.
Immediately, everything started to become blurry.
She remembered Danny locking the door, and Roberto kissing her on the bench. She felt unable to control her body, her mind going fuzzy.
“I was not in any state to even stop what was going on,” she told the investigator.
“I just remember I was asking for a lot of water. My mouth was so dry, I’d never, ever felt like that.”
Her next memory was having sex with two men. One was Roberto, but Danny had disappeared. The other man was a friend of the Jaz brothers.
This third man has interim name suppression and was later cleared of a rape allegation. There was no proof he knew Roberto had drugged her, his lawyers arguing he thought it was consensual.
During the ordeal, Rosie recognised a familiar flash of a cellphone camera.
“It was almost like ten second flashes at a time,” she said.
Police would later find the video on Roberto’s cell phone in a secret folder. It was very long, the version played in court condensed to 14 minutes.
The video showed Rosie was participating in the sex – at times giving the men verbal cues – but clearly not in her right mind. At some points she was unable to keep her eyes open, at others she collapsed and was unable to stand.
She told the officer that when it was over, Danny came back. They put her back in a ripped dress and took her to Christchurch Casino, giving her money to play slots, she said.
The next day she had huge memory blanks from the night, her breasts bruised black and blue.
She claimed Roberto had messaged her on Snapchat, in a note that later disappeared.
“If anybody asks, your alibi is we just went to the casino.”
“Don’t tell anyone.”
February 22, 2023
Four years later, the door to Courtroom 19 finally swung open.
It was February 22, 2023. The trial had been delayed repeatedly, the wait excruciating.
But the day was finally here. Rosie walked past the legal benches and took her place in the witness box. Black skirt, black blazer. A victim support worker at her side.
To her right was Judge Paul Mabey KC, the man who would decide whether she was telling the truth. Across the benches, a mass of lawyers.
Danny and Roberto Jaz were there, hidden behind a screen to ease the process for Rosie. While they were out of sight, she knew they could still see her thanks to a camera pointed directly at the witness box.
Everyone in the room had just watched the 14-minute video of the rape.
Roberto, who could be heard saying “one for the collection” on the recording that night, was represented by his lawyer Trudi Aickin.
The battle lines were drawn; his defence that it was consensual.
Soon, Aickin was reading a transcript from the video to the court.
For years Rosie had tried to avoid the video. She didn’t want to watch it, finding its existence traumatic. But now Roberto’s lawyer was recounting it to her verbally, reading the transcript line for line.
Roberto would soon be convicted. The judge finding Rosie had been drugged and had not consented.
The trial had heard evidence that certain drugs, such as MDMA, could alter the mind of a person, changing their personality and reducing their inhibitions.
That night, Rosie had felt like she couldn’t speak properly, her words slurred and disjointed.
Now, she spoke with force.
“Do you agree that the words that you said during the incident and recorded on that video suggest that you were willing and enthusiastic in your participation in this sexual incident,” Aickin asked.
“No,” Rosie replied.
“And that you were consenting at that time?”
The judge watched from his bench.
“And that you knew well that you were being videoed?,” Aickin said.
“No,” Rosie replied.
“And that the injuries you suffer, the bruising to your breasts, were as a result of vigorous sexual consensual activity, weren’t they?"
21 April, 2023
When judgement day arrived, there was no screen blocking the view in Courtroom 19.
Rosie sat in the front row in the public gallery, holding her fiancé’s hand. Eyes downcast. Not wanting to give either man the satisfaction of staring.
All around her, packing the public gallery to capacity, were young women.
It was a strange sisterhood. Despite describing similar horrifying nights at Mama Hooch, none of them had ever met each other. And for a while, all of them had felt alone.
But now, they were there together.
Roberto Jaz was in the dock, flanked by prison officers. Danny Jaz stood next to him. Both were expressionless, not looking back at the women in the gallery behind them.
It happened so quickly, Rosie had to double-check. Judge Mabey KC read the verdicts quick-fire, dizzyingly fast.
Danny, guilty of stupefying. Guilty of sexual violation. Guilty of rape by association.
Roberto, guilty of stupefying. Guilty of sexual violation. Guilty of making an intimate visual recording. Guilty of rape.
Speaking from her home in another city earlier this month, Rosie was definite on one thing.
It was worth it.
The men are now due to be sentenced in August. The maximum penalty for rape is 20 years in jail.
“Hearing that verdict - there's nothing quite like knowing that the men who have hurt you are going to be punished,” she said.
Now that she’s emerging on the other side, Rosie wanted to encourage other women in their journeys too. In 2022, the New Zealand Crime and Victims Survey found 92 percent of all sexual crimes in this country are not reported to police.
“I would say while it is important to protect your inner peace, and heal from this, just know that while the process is hard, the police will do everything they can to support you on this really difficult journey,” she said.
“Make sure you have the support that you need, and make sure you ask for that support. If you are thinking about going forward you should be proud of yourself for even thinking about it, I think it's really brave.”
She could now feel her own story closing, her life moving forward.
“I think that's the biggest relief is it is coming to an end,” she said.
“It's going to be amazing to be able to leave this behind and get on with my life.”
After years of it popping into her head “every single day, in many different ways”, she was looking forward to a clean slate.
“It's going to be really special,” she said.
“To not have to think about it.”