John Weekes

John Weekes is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Sailor under fire in baby case

Woman in navy faces court over claim she left baby alone in car

Photo / File
Photo / File

A navy woman who took on terrorists in the Middle East has been charged with failing to provide reasonable supervision and care for a child.

Sarah Piriha Tapsell, 36, of Torbay, appeared in the North Shore District Court on January 24 after an alleged incident five days before Christmas.

Tapsell joined the navy in the mid-1990s and completed multiple overseas deployments.

Tapsell declined to comment but her partner said the issue had been blown out of proportion after it was alleged a baby was found in a car.

He said he was surprised at the intensity of the police response.

"She's served 18 to 20 years for her country."

In 2004, Tapsell was interviewed for a feature about life in the navy.

Then holding the rank of leading sonarman, she was just back from a tour of duty, during which her tasks included disrupting Al Qaeda and Taliban communications, the Waikato Times said.

Tapsell served with Operation Enduring Freedom and also boarded dhows, searching for drugs and weapons. Originally from Tokoroa, she spoke of having a strong, loving, supportive extended family.

Under the Summary Offences Act, a parent or guardian who leaves a child under 14 without "reasonable" supervision and care is punishable by a fine of up to $2000.

Navy spokeswoman Sarah Campbell said Tapsell was still employed by the navy and diversion was likely.

Tapsell is scheduled to reappear in court this month.

- Herald on Sunday

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