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

61 little names on New Zealand's roll of dishonour

A child is killed every five weeks, putting us high on list of world’s worst offenders.

Sixty-one. It's the number of children who have died as a result of non-accidental injuries in New Zealand in the last 10 years.

Their names are scars on a shameful landscape of child abuse - Chris and Cru Kahui who would have turned 10 today, Nia Glassie, JJ Ruhe-Lawrence, Jyniah Te Awa.

Thirty-one of those young ones were violently assaulted. They were kicked, punched, thrown, stomped or bashed to the point of death.

New Zealand has the fifth worst child abuse record out of 31 OECD countries and on average a child is killed here every five weeks.

In the last half of 2015, Child Youth and Family had recorded 8800 cases of proven child abuse and neglect.

In the same period, the agency received 76,041 "reports of concern" about suspected child abuse or neglect which included 34,226 referrals from police.

Of the initial reports, 22,917 required further action and were investigated.

Following the Kahui boys' deaths, several initiatives and action plans were launched to address the nation's shocking level of child abuse.


Kahui twins: The tragic twin boys forever in our minds

Toddler's death 'no accident'
My heart's still breaking for Jyniah, says grieving mum
Kahui twins Chris and Cru: The fatal 24 hours
Kahui twins: Macsyna's world
Kahui twins book: blame on Chris
Kahui twins: Murder - and the cover-up
Chris Kahui a father again

The first was the Vulnerable Families initiative launched by then Social Development MInister David Benson-Pope in September 2006. Aiming to give the children of at-risk families "the best start in life", it was announced the same week as the $10 million Action Plan for young people in South Auckland and the $7.3 million Early Years initiative targeting teen parents in high-risk areas.

In 2012, then-Minister for Social Development Paula Bennett released the White Paper for Vulnerable Children, which outlined how New Zealand should identify, protect and care for children. The paper had 30 new initiatives including a one-stop information system for authorities and the development of a risk predictor tool, targeting support and services for the country's most vulnerable kids.


Two years later, the Vulnerable Children Act 2014 came into force to support the Government's setting of priorities for improving the well-being of vulnerable children and to ensure children's agencies work together to improve their lives.

And, late last year, Social Development Minister Anne Tolley released an interim report from an independent expert panel that revealed the Child, Youth and Family system was falling extremely short when it came to vulnerable children.

None of us are proud to live in a society where this is happening to innocent children.
Anne Tolley

She announced a major overhaul for the agency, saying "we need a better skills mix and enhanced training for frontline staff, with a clearer system that allows staff to do their job and spend more time focussed on the needs of children, rather than spending the majority of their time on administration."

"The awareness of child abuse from the time of the Kahui twins' deaths has been huge," Mrs Tolley told the Herald.

"There is a lot of stuff happening to address abuse, and not all of it is seen. Certainly we have seen some big changes.

Late last year, Anne Tolley released an interim report from an independent expert panel that revealed the Child, Youth and Family system was falling extremely short. Photo / Glenn Taylor
Late last year, Anne Tolley released an interim report from an independent expert panel that revealed the Child, Youth and Family system was falling extremely short. Photo / Glenn Taylor

"But it's still horrific. None of us are proud to live in a society where this is happening to innocent children. None of us want to see this happening. One child [dying] is too many. [It's] just totally unacceptable."

Mrs Tolley said the key to protecting children was a priority.

"It's easy to say, not so easy to do," she said.

"The Government cannot do this on its own. But the sooner we can get in and work with these families the better chance we have of preventing a child getting hurt. It truly does take a village to raise a child - the community, neighbours, non-government organisations and iwi all have an important role to play."

Mrs Tolley said the Vulnerable Children's Hub, the point of contact for practitioners and professionals who have concerns about a vulnerable child, would enable people working with at-risk families to access all of the information they needed about the circumstances.

It eliminated the silo approach, where agencies worked independently of each other on different aspects of a family's situation, and introduced a much more holistic way of tackling the issues.

Children's Teams, panels of "skilled frontline practitioners and professionals" set up to respond to the specific needs of vulnerable children within their locality also have access to that information.

The bigger picture allows them to make the better decisions based on what the families under their care really need.

Mrs Tolley said while CYF had a long way to go in terms of responding to abuse and welfare issues, the bigger problem was what was happening to children before they made it on to that radar.

Dr Patrick Kelly is the clinical director at Starship Children's Health and the head of its child abuse team. He gave evidence for the Crown at the Kahui trial and inquest and has spoken on countless other cases.

In his eyes there is only one fix for child abuse - recognising it as a health issue and funding the professionals at the frontline to do more.

Dr Patrick Kelly, head of the child abuse unit Te Puaruruhau, which is part of Starship Hospital. Photo / Natalie Slade
Dr Patrick Kelly, head of the child abuse unit Te Puaruruhau, which is part of Starship Hospital. Photo / Natalie Slade

"DHBs have little money dedicated to child protection. It is not seen as a health problem. We need to look at it in a health prevention sense," he said.

"Why not make our health workforce a child protection workforce? Let's realise that this is everyone's problem and let's put some serious resources in."

Dr Kelly said reorganising CYF was pointless.

"The median age for abusive head injury patients in New Zealand is 5 months. Most of those babies are not known to CYF at the time they die.

"We assume CYF or police need to do more but the people in contact with the families, the mothers during pregnancy and in the first few weeks of life - the midwife, the GP, the public health nurse - they are the ones we need to resource better.

"We need to put much more energy into creating infrastructure around child abuse expertise in the health industry.

"We have been banging on about this for years. We need to realise that if we don't tackle this we're going to be paying the bill and so will our children for the rest of their lives. We may as well bite the bullet and spend the money now."

Labour's spokeswoman for children, Jacinda Ardern, said the best way to end abuse was to start with parents before they had kids.

"For me the much harder question is not what the state is doing, but what we are doing to make sure that we are raising the next generation of parents who won't repeat those mistakes," she said.

Politicians were good at "talking the talk" around child abuse, but tangible action was lacking, Ms Ardern said.

"We constantly talk about breaking the cycle but we do bugger all in reality to do it. You know what you know. If you have a terrible childhood we can't magically expect that child to grow into the kind of parent that can somehow magically break away from that and do everything differently.

"That's a big ask. So what are we doing to support that person who's had that terrible childhood to be that different parent?

Politicians were good at "talking the talk" around child abuse, but tangible action was lacking, Jacinda Ardern said. Photo / Getty Images
Politicians were good at "talking the talk" around child abuse, but tangible action was lacking, Jacinda Ardern said. Photo / Getty Images

"We can't expect it to magically occur, nor can we expect that they magically have that support.

"For me this is about investing in our next generation of humans."

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren founder Diane Vivian knows all too well how important that generation is. She is among just under 10,000 grandparents raising grandchildren whose early years have been tarnished by abuse, violence, parents with drug and alcohol addiction or mental illness.

"It is heartbreaking and quite frankly an outrage that 60 young children have lost their lives due to the actions or inaction of people who they should be able to rely on to care for them, and keep them safe," she said.

"Parenting is tough. When these parents can't cope they either take it out on their innocent and defenceless children or they completely abdicate their responsibilities and give up," she said.

"The Government's focus on vulnerable children ... is a step in the right direction but more needs to be done to educate everyone as to their responsibilities to keep children safe."

Police national crime manager Detective Superintendent Tim Andersen said whatever the fix was, one thing had to be made clear.

"There is absolutely no excuse for beating, abusing, or neglecting our children. Tackling the issue of child abuse requires our communities to work together and tackle that harm, so that it is everyone's responsibility to make their children and community safe."


We encourage anyone who knows of abuse or neglect of children to take action to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all children. If you see or hear about a child whose safety and wellbeing is in immediate danger, don't wait, and don't assume someone else is acting.

Where there are crimes being committed or there is a suspicion of such, people should report to police directly via 111 or through their local police or anonymously through Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

You can also report any suspected child abuse, neglect, harm or maltreatment to Child Youth and Family on 0508 326 459.

61 children have died as a result of non-accidental injuries in New Zealand in the last 10 years.

The majority of these children have died as a result of abuse, neglect, violence and maltreatment. Others were murdered by parents who then committed suicide, some were killed soon after birth by their mothers and the details are suppressed while a few were killed in preventable incidents caused by their parents or caregivers including car crashes where criminal charges were laid.

Here are some of the worst cases involving babies and young children that are strikingly similar to the Kahui twins.


Kahui twins
Kahui twins


Newborns Chris and Cru Kahui died as a result of skull fractures due to blunt force trauma to the head, Mangere. Father Chris Kahui charged with murders but acquitted after trial.


Cheyenne Petersen, 1, drowned in a shallow stream after her mother Natasha Petersen carried her into the bush near Whangarei Heads and left her. Petersen, a P addict, was convicted of manslaughter.

Tyla-Maree Darryl Flynn, 1, died as a result of severe burns to her head and body believed to be caused by hot water. The Tokoroa toddler's stepfather Riki Hotham was charged with murder but died in a car crash before his trial.

Nia Maria Glassie from Rotorua was 3 when she died from head injuries. In the days before her death she was kicked, beaten, slapped, jumped on, put inside a drier spinning at a high temperature, spun on an outdoor clothes line until she fell off, dropped, thrown against a wall and used by adults to practice wrestling moves. Nia's mother Lisa Kuka was convicted of manslaughter, and her boyfriend Wiremu Curtis and his brother Michael were found guilty of murder.

Jyniah Mary Te Awa, 10 months old, was tortured by her babysitter Tiana Tapiki. The baby suffered a brain injury while in Tapiki's care. It later emerged she had kicked, shaken and thrown the baby, swung her by the hair, put in a closed freezer, hung from a washing line and smothered. Tapiki pleaded guilty to Jyniah's murder.


Tahani Mahomet was 11 weeks old when she died in Auckland. Her father Azees Mahomet was convicted of murder after he was found guilty of breaking the baby's leg by twisting it violently and inflicting severe head injuries. Her mother Tabbasum was convicted of failing to provide the necessities of life.

Dylan Rimoni, 3, had his head smashed against a hard surface rendering him brain dead. His brain was stolen and bleeding after Patricia Pickering, his adoptive mother, slammed him on an "unforgiving" surface such as a wall or the floor with significant force. Pickering was jailed for life after being convicted of the Papakura toddler's murder.

A Dunedin woman killed her 1-year-old by inflicting head injuries. She was convicted of infanticide. Further details are suppressed.

Duwayne Tietutaote Pajlegutu from Nelson died as a result of head injuries caused by his stepfather Johny Joachim. The 7-year-old was beaten so badly that he was paralysed and slowly suffocating on his own blood. Joachim also hit the boy with shoes, causing deep bruising to the scalp and a cricket wicket. He admitting murdering Duwayne and is serving life in prison.

Riley Justin Osborne from Kerikeri died in Starship Hospital two days before Christmas. The 16-month-old had head injuries described by police as "horrific". Kyle Skerton, the partner of Riley's mother, was charged with murder and convicted of the baby's manslaughter.


Cherishsiliala Tahuri-Wright was killed by her grandmother in Marton. Joanne Tahuri lashes out at the 3-year-old, inflicting unsurvivable head injuries. She was convicted of manslaughter.

Jayrhis Lock-Tata was five weeks old when he was shaken to death by his father in Taupo. Adam Lock pleaded guilty to murdering the baby, as well as assaulting the infant with intent to injure when he was two or three weeks old. Lock was also convicted of assaulting Jayrhis' mother Shannel Tata.

Trent James Matthews was put into the care of Sasha Pene by Child Youth and Family. Seven months later he was dead. She assaulted him a number of times in the six weeks before his death, caused by hitting him over the head while wearing a metal splint on her hand for an injury. The 1-year-old died on a mattress in Pene's living room from a lack of oxygen, the result of his spinal cord becoming constricted. Pene pleaded guilty to manslaughter.

Kash Meshetti McKinnon, 3, was found unconscious with head injuries at a Palmerston North house. She died the next day. Her mother's former partner Sean Donnelly was later charged wiht murder. He had been looking after Kash the day she was fatally injured. He was found not guilty of murder but convicted of manslaughter. He admitted hitting Kash and swinging her around by the ankles, angry that she had put a toilet roll into the toilet bowl.

Jacqui Petersen-Davis, 2, was killed by her mother Norefjell Davis. She died in Starship Hospital from numerous injuries including fractured ribs, bleeding on the brain and bruising. The Kaitaia toddler also had a number of historic injuries. Her mother was found guilty of manslaughter and wilful ill treatment.

Hail-Sage McClutchie's killer has never been brought to justice. The 22-month-old began vomiting five days after her mother picked her up from her caregiver and grandmother's house. She had a seizure and was admitted to Waikato Hospital where she died. She had non-accidental head injuries and a homicide investigation was launched but to date, no one has been charged with Hail-Sage's death.

Karl Richard Arch Perigo-Check, 2, was kicked to death by his mother's partner after he wet his pants. Rikki Ngati-Check was found guilty of murdering the Whanganui toddler, one of seven children. Karl's biological father was in prison when he died as a result in his involvement in the drive-by shooting in which toddler Jhia Te Tua was murdered.


Seini Unaloto Ikamanu, 2, was thrown against a wall by her father who then stomped on her and shattered her pelvis at their Auckland home. Kefu Ikamanu was watching TV when the toddler became noisy while playing with her brother. Her father grabbed her and inflicted the fatal injuries. Seini was taken to hospital where she died nine months later. Her father was convicted of manslaughter and causing grievous bodily harm.

Cezar Taylor died in his father's arms in hospital after being fatally beaten in Mangere East by his mother's new partner James Hemana. Annoyed by the baby waking at 6am for a feed, Hemana picked the baby up by his leg, shook him and dropped him repeatedly. On the last drop Cezar's head hit a cabinet and a bed. Hemana prevented Cezar's mother from taking him to hospital for 10 days. During that time he called the injured infant "Zombie Boy". He was finally taken to hospital on July 23 and died five days later.

Sahara Jayde Koro-Baker was a bright and happy 6-year-old who moved to Napier with her mother from Whanganui for a better life. But just before Christmas her mother's boyfriend killed her. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter and then a jury found him guilty of sexually violating his stepdaughter. He said Sahara had been whining and he tried to shut her up - but she was not supposed to die.


Mikara Reti, 5 months, was viciously attacked by his mother's boyfriend Trent Hapuku. He was in sole charge of Mikara when the boy suffered fatal injuries including a blow to his torso so brutal it almost split his liver in two against his spine. Hapuku was convicted of manslaughter.

Serenity Jay Sott-Dennington's killer was jailed for more than 13 years after he pleaded guilty to murdering the baby girl at a Ngaruawahia house. Serenity's crying aggravated Matther Ellery, her mother's boyfriend, and he picked her up by the legs and threw her head first onto the floor. He then took a cloth nappy and smothered the 6-month-old until there was no more noise. Ellery went to buy cigarettes, leaving Serenity in a bedroom. She died two days later at Starship Hospital.

Terepo Taura-Griffiths' godmother killed him a week after he turned one. Mariam Filiha, 33, was convicted of the toddler's murder. She was looking after the boy and while bathing him he started to cry. She became frustrated with Terepo and struck the boy's head against a hard, flat surface. His skull fractured, he suffered a massive brain bleed and extensive brain damage. His life support was turned off two days later.

James Joseph Ruhe Lawrence was struck so hard in the abdomen by his mother's boyfriend that his liver and pancreas ruptured. The 2-year-old suffered horrific violence in his short life - two broken arms and 30 other injuries to his tiny body. The fatal attack happened at a house in Orakei. Joel Loffley, expecting his own child with JJ's mother, delivered a blow described in court as "having the effect of a hammer on JJ's internal organs". Loffley would also "quiten" the toddler by blowing marijuana smoke into his face. Loffley denied murdering the boy but was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.


Hinekawa Topia was a triplet, one of three baby girls. But two months after her birth her father murdered her. Thomas McGregor pleaded guilty to deliberately injuring the infant's, and wounding her baby sister on another occasion. He picked HInekawa up out of her cot and either swung her or threw her against a wall, the floor or another object. She suffered a skull fracture and immediately became lifeless. She was pronounced dead soon after at Whanganui Hospital.

Leilane Mary Jane Lotonu'u-Lorigan, 2, died as a result of an infection caused by an organ in her abdomen splitting in two places. A pathologist said the injury would have required " a substantial amount of force" - similar to being kicked by a horse or falling from a height onto a fence post. Leilani's stepfather was charged with murder but was acquitted by a jury after a trial in the High Court at Auckland. He was also found not guilty of manslaughter and ill-treatment of a child. To date, no one has been convicted of Leilane's death.


Raynar-Lee Soljar Thompson-Hatley died from head injuries he sustained in a flat in Wairoa. He was rushed to Starship Hospital but died several days later. No charges have been laid to date in relation to Raynar-Lee's death.

Atreyu Taylor-Matene, 1, died in Starship Hospital from significant head injuries. No one has been charged in relation to his death at this stage. The Whangarei boy was admitted to hospital and then flown to Starship where he passed away. He was living with his mother Jessica Taylor, who shared custody of the boy with his father Joshua Matene and grandparents in Auckland.

Cassius Takiari's father beat him to death. Charlie Lackner was convicted of murdering the 8-month-old in Auckland. Lackner told Cassius' mother he had slapped the boy when she came home to find him unresponsive. The baby had significant swelling and bleeding on and around his brain, bruising to both sides of his forehead and two detached retinas caused by blunt force trauma.

Soul Mathew Turany was 3 months old when he suffered a fatal head injury at a farm 30km out of Christchurch. Police launched a homicide investigation but are yet to charge anyone with Soul's injury or death.

A baby girl whose name has been suppressed was allegedly murdered by Auckland man Troy Solomon. The 5-month-old died as a result of a head injury. Her body was exhumed after it was revealed that the Auckland Hospital pathology unit had misplaced crucial samples taken from the baby's brain during the post mortem examination. Solomon is awaiting trial.

A 7-week-old boy died in Gisborne Hospital from non-accidental injuries. Police were alerted by hospital staff after the baby was admitted. His mother Myra Paea, who was 19 when the baby died, has been charged with manslaughter.


Aaliyah Ashlyn Chand died with her parents at her side. The 1-year-old sustained a major head injury while in the care of her regular babysitter Shayal Sami, then 18. Sami was pregnant at the time and was charged with murdering Aaliyah.

Leith Allen Hutchison, 1, was rushed to Grey Base Hospital in Greymouth after he stopped breathing. He was in cardiac arrest but hospital staff managed to revive him and stabilise him for transfer to Starship Hospital. There, his condition deteriorated and he died two days later due to bleeding on the brain. In January 2016 a 30-year-old man was charged with murder. His name has been suppressed. The case remains before the courts.

Leon Jayet-Cole was admitted to hospital with head injuries. The 5-year-old boy, who had autism, died soon after. His stepfather James Roberts has been charged with murder and his mother Emma Roberts with neglect. Both have denied the charge and are awaiting trial.

June Esme Kinraid was allegedly killed by her father Philip. The 27-year-old has been charged with manslaughter following the death of the 2-year-old. Emergency services were called to the Kinraid family home in Hawera at 11pm but attempts to revive Esme were unsuccessful. The courts have suppressed photographs of the toddler.

Gracie-May McSorley died of injuries that were similar to those that would be sustained by a baby in a high-speed crash. The 6-month-old Raumati baby was allegedly murdered by her mother's boyfriend Michael Kereopa, who was looking after her. Gracie's mother left the baby alone with Kereopa for 45 minutes. When she left the infant was "happy and healthy" and when she returned Gracie was "very unwell" she told police. Gracie died the next day. Kereopa is still before the courts.

Ihaka Paora Braxton Stokes died after suffering multiple blunt force trauma injuries. His mother's partner Troy Taylor has been charged with murder. Dhaka was just 22 months old when he died. Taylor has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.

Maggie Renee Watson died suddenly at the Onehunga home where she lived with her mother. The initial post mortem failed to provide clear answers. A second examination revealed the 4-year-old's death was not an accident. Last month police charged a woman with murdering Maggie. Her name has been suppressed.

Moko Sayviah Rangitoheriri, 3, was taken to Taupo Hospital with critical injuries. He died before medical staff could arrange his transfer to Starship Hospital. Moto was allegedly assaulted by David Haerewa and Tania Shailer. The pair have pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and ill treatment of a child and will stand trial later this year.

Matiu Wereta from Hastings was a "happy, smiling, adventurous boy", said his family. But the 2-year-old's adventure was cut short when he was fatally assaulted at his home. He was rushed to Hawkes Bay Hospital and died in the intensive care unit. A 17-year-old has been charged with assault. The case is ongoing.

- NZ Herald

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