Cherie Howie

Cherie Howie is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Mother fights for justice

Otto Rapihana.
Otto Rapihana.

A mother's fight for justice over the death of her autistic son will go to the Health and Disability Commissioner.

Otto Rapihana died inside a locked west Auckland flat which caught fire last November. His caregiver had gone to get takeaways, leaving Rapihana and another autistic man, Ali Siddiqui, locked in the flat. Siddiqui suffered burns but was rescued by a neighbour.

Rapihana's mum, Audrey, wants the caregiver held responsible for her son's death, and was devastated when police said this month no one would be charged. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's health and safety group is investigating.

This week Rapihana, the principal of Arohanui Special School James Le Marquand, and a lawyer met to prepare a complaint to the commissioner.

That complaint will be lodged in the next few days.

Otto attended Arohanui until his death. Le Marquand said he was devastated by the police decision, but Otto, like his caregiver, was a victim of underfunding for those with high needs.

"Twenty years ago the needs of these people were better met than they are now.

"There needs to be institutional care available, instead of some Joe off the street, who has no professional training or backup."

- Herald on Sunday

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