Meet Trent Owen Ngaruhe Hapuku. Hapuku appeared in the Hastings District Court yesterday facing a charge of manslaughter. Interim name suppression orders lapsed yesterday. Stuff reports:
The man accused of killing a five-month-old boy was found trying to play a PlayStation game as the baby was dying on his shoulder.
Mikara Ranui Jarius Reti died on the evening of January 11 after his mother found him alone with her partner, Trent Owen Ngaruhe Hapuku, 21.
Hapuku, who has been charged with manslaughter, appeared in Hastings District Court yesterday and was remanded in custody without plea until March.
The baby lived with his mother, Jamie Reti, two-year-old brother and Hapuku in a sleepout behind a house in Kingsley Drive, Flaxmere.
Hapuku had been in a relationship with Ms Reti for three to four months and she was three months pregnant with his child.
These details are all too familiar. A young, defenceless child has been brutally bashed by an adult who was not his parent, but who had been brought into his life by his mother. The "couple" had been together "three to four months", and the woman was three months pregnant, despite already having a five-month-old baby to another man. Hapuku's Court appearances so far have been marked by suppport from Mongrel Mob members and associates.
The Stuff story then publishes details from the Police summary of facts. Be warned; it's not a pretty story, and if you find these kinds of details distressing, you may wish to stop reading at this point. It is however a story that must be told - read on, with that caveat:
The police statement of facts alleges that, about 6.30pm on January 11, Jarius's brother needed to be bathed and was taken to the main house by his mother.
Hapuku was left in sole charge of Jarius and proceeded to feed him but he did not drink the normal amount and became sleepy. Hapuku burped him and put him in his cot.
Fifteen minutes later Ms Reti returned and the baby appeared to be in good health. She returned to the main house for 45 minutes to complete tending to her other son and to eat her dinner.
Police allege that nobody else went into the sleepout and Hapuku somehow caused critical blunt-force injury to the baby's liver, severing it, and fracturing four of his ribs.
The injury to the liver probably resulted from it being crushed internally against the baby's spinal column, police say.
He would have been in severe pain and he vomited over Hapuku's shoulder while being held.
It is alleged the baby continued bleeding internally and rapidly lost blood, which caused his face to turn pale. Massive bleeding caused him to go into shock and lose consciousness.
When Ms Reti returned to the sleepout, she found Hapuku trying to play a PlayStation game while holding the boy over his shoulder.
She saw the baby's pale face and decided to take him straight to Hawke's Bay Hospital. The baby was wrapped in a blanket with Hapuku monitoring him on the way.
Hospital staff found he was not breathing and were unable to revive him.
The Playstation revelation, and Hapuku's alleged indifference to wee Jarius' distress as his life slipped away are shocking. It seems that a five-month-old child's life was of far less importance to Hapuku than getting his thrills on his Playstation. One can only wonder; what game was Hapuku playing? We have little doubt that it was something brutal; a game where the objective is to cause as much death and destruction as possible, with no consequences for the perpetrator of the violence. Hapuku is about to learn that in real life, there ARE consequences, and that prisons are not nice places for people who abuse children.
And just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, the Stuff story ends thus:
Hapuku told police he knew he would get the blame because he was the only person with the baby. He said he did not know how the injuries happened.
A pathologist's report found the baby was also suffering from healing fractures to his ribs that were estimated as being between a week and a fortnight old.
The report found that the injuries were likely to have been caused as the result of a front-to-back crushing injury.
Yes, you read it right; this was not the first time that Jarius Reti, aged 5 months, had been the victim of violence. That is yet another revelation about this case that has sickened us.
Now, difficult as it may be, let's be fair; Trent Hapuku has not been convicted of anything yet, and is entitled to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. The evidence against him however is damning.
The TV advertisements tell us that domestic violence is not OK, and they're right. And violence against children is absolutely wrong. We would hope that CYFS and other social agencies become involved with Jarius' mother to ensure that her yet-to-be-born child does not suffer a similar fate.
Writing this post hasn't been easy. But let's be honest here; New Zealand has an appalling record in the area of child abuse. Yes, Maori are over-represented in the abuse figures, but this is not simply a Maori issue, and the overwhelming majority of Maori parents don't abuse their children. It is a New Zealand problem, and presents an enormous problem for ALL New Zealand political and social leaders.
We don't pretend to have any answers. We do know this however; Jarius Reti deserved a damn sight better than what was dished up to him in his five months on this earth.