Beer baby loved and cared for: parents

By Beck Vass

A couple at the centre of the beer-soaked baby case in Whangarei say their daughter is well loved and cared for and the night in question was an evening out that went horribly wrong.

Police charged the baby's father, Michael Patira, 18, after a member of the public took his 7-month-old daughter Harlow from him believing she had been abused, while he walked her outside Whangarei nightclub Danger Danger about 4am on Sunday.

In what they said was an "unusual" move, officers yesterday in the Whangarei District Court withdrew a charge of disorderly behaviour against Mr Patira, saying they had no evidence of disorderly behaviour. But they said other charges could follow.

Mr Patira, who is employed on a local chicken farm, admits he did the wrong thing by taking his daughter out late at night and by reacting in anger after she was taken from him.

Speaking to the Herald yesterday from the Onerahi home of Harlow and her mother, Pepe Tusi, Mr Patira explained that he just "panicked" while looking after baby Harlow, who was screaming for her mother.

"We should have left her here ... but I didn't think of that at the time."

Mr Patira said he and a friend drove to find Miss Tusi, 18, his partner of one year, who was not drinking alcohol, in the hope she could feed their daughter and stop her crying.

As the friend tried to console Harlow in the back seat, Mr Patira, who was driving, handed back what he thought was an empty beer bottle to give her something to play with. He said there must have been some beer in the bottle which spilled over Harlow.

Mr Patira said while he was waiting for his friend to find Miss Tusi, he started walking Harlow about in an effort to stop her crying.

Miss Tusi said although she was nightclubbing, she had had just one beer many hours earlier. It was the first time she had been out since her 18th birthday on November 1.

She arrived home to find Mr Patira and Harlow gone and eventually called the police trying to find him.

She said officers told her Harlow had been found soaked in alcohol with her "intoxicated" father.

Mr Patira said he had had only two beers. Police did not breath-test him.

Miss Tusi said she was "hysterical" when she arrived at the police station, although police said she was drunk.

"She is a loved baby," Miss Tusi said.

"This is just a one-time thing that went horribly wrong."

- NZ Herald

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