Anna Leask

Anna Leask is a police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

Fleeting attack brings lifetime of suffering

Auckland family destroyed after vicious assault causes debilitating brain injury.

Mike's wife says their daughter doesn't like her "new daddy".
Mike's wife says their daughter doesn't like her "new daddy".

Forty-two seconds was all it took to destroy an Auckland family.

And while the men responsible may spend years in prison, their victims will pay for the rest of their lives.

In November 2012, Mike, whose family have requested that his last name not be published, was with friends in Pt Chevalier. They pulled up near the Crown Hotel and one of the men went in to buy beer.

As Mike and his other mate waited, they were confronted by a group of men. A vicious assault took place and every bone in Mike's face was broken - leaving him unrecognisable. He suffered near-fatal head injuries and permanent brain damage. He spent three weeks in a coma and had to learn to walk and talk again.

In the Auckland District Court this week, Toti Toti Junior and James Michael Mafi were found guilty of assault. They face up to eight and a half years in prison when they are sentenced next month.

A third man, Stephen Uasi, was found not guilty.

Mike's wife, Gail, said that after 18 months of going through the court process, the verdicts were a relief - but no sentence could reflect what was taken.

"Forty-two seconds and look at what they have done. It's crazy," she said. "I often look back to that night - I asked Mike not to go out. I was sick and our daughter was coming down with a cold. I remember saying to him, 'Don't go, I think you should stay home.' If only he'd listened."

Gail has had to leave her job of 17 years to care for Mike full time.

"I'm giving up to help Mike with his rehab and recovery. Eighteen months down the track I don't think he is recovering as much as he could be. I have to shoulder some of the blame for that - because I am not there giving him the push he needs every day.

"I also need to look after my own health. I was hospitalised the week before the trial and it got me thinking - if anything happens to me, Mike and my daughter are screwed. It was a real eye-opener."

Financially, she has no idea how her family will survive. But her priority is her husband.

"He is a shell of a person. He gets frustrated every day, there are tears every day. I have to keep reminding myself that while he's walking around in an adult body, he's got the mentality of a child and that's how I need to deal with him.

"This is not what life was supposed to be like for us. We had plans for our future which went out the window in November 2012."

Gail said it was horrendous watching her daughter cope with her "new daddy".

After she was born, Mike stayed home to care for her when Gail returned to work and the pair had a strong bond.

"She remembers the dad that she had and now the dad that she's got, she doesn't like him. She says to me, 'I don't like my new daddy.' That just reduces me to tears."

- NZ Herald

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