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

Moko Rangitoheriri's violent and tragic last days

Moko Sayviah Rangitoheriri died on August 10 last year from injuries he received during prolonged abuse and torture. His case shocked, saddened and angered New Zealanders and led to marches in his name against child abuse. Today his killers, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter, will be sentenced. This is Moko's story.

This story contains detailed descriptions of the abuse Moko suffered which could be upsetting. Please take care.

He lay on a resuscitation table.

His eyes were so swollen that the nurse could not lift the lids to check his pupils.

His little body was cold - so cold that devices used for measuring body temperature would not take a reading.

He had bite marks on his face, his tummy was protruding unnaturally and he was covered from head to toe in bruises and abrasions.

The little boy was so badly brutalised that he did not survive. At 10pm on August 10 last year he was pronounced dead.

His name was Moko Rangitoheriri. He was 3 years old.

A post-mortem examination was carried out and established that the Tokoroa toddler died as a result of "multiple blunt force traumas".

He had lacerations and hemorrhaging deep within his abdomen, historic bruising and damage to his bowel. Combined, that resulted in his bowel rupturing. Fecal matter leaked into Moko's abdomen, causing septic shock.

His brain was swollen, he had blood clots under his scalp representing numerous injuries inflicted at different times in the lead up to his death.

There was evidence the toddler had been smothered.

His body was a veritable map of torture - Moko had human bite marks, contusions, abrasions, deep bruising, lacerations, patterned injuries on his face, chin, neck, ears, lower lip, gums, eyes, ribs, testes, skin, chest, tummy, shoulder, arms.

Moko was a little boy with a big smile and a lot of life left to live.

But that was taken away from him by David Haerewa and Tania Shailer who deliberately and systematically hurt, tortured and abused Moko. Then, when his little body could take no more, they left him to die.

The beginning of the end

Moko Sayviah Rangitoheriri was born in October 2012 to Nicola Dally-Paki and Jordan Rangitoheriri.

Ms Dally-Paki had a son and daughter before Moko came along. When her youngest boy was very little, her eldest became sick and needed to travel to Auckland for treatment at Starship Hospital.

She couldn't have the younger kids with her at the hospital so Moko and his sister were left in the care of whanau.

The pair spent time in Hawke's Bay and then moved in with their mum's mate in Taupo - Tania Shailer. Ms Dally-Paki met Shailer, then a caregiver at Kohunga Reo, when she was 16.

When Shailer took in Moko and his sister she had four kids of her own aged between 2 and 7 and was living with her partner David Haerewa.

A source told the Herald that Haerewa had been in and out of prison "most of his life" but in June 2015 he was "doing really well".

Shailer was also in a good place, the source said. She'd had problems in the past and turned to a Maori women's refuge to help her escape a violent life in 2013. They helped her move to Taupo and find a house.

The refuge continued to work with Shailer in 2015.

Tania Shailer and David William Haerewa, right, will be sentenced today for the manslaughter of Moko. Photo / Andrew Warner
Tania Shailer and David William Haerewa, right, will be sentenced today for the manslaughter of Moko. Photo / Andrew Warner

Social worker Trina Marama said Shailer enrolled Moko's sister into one of her refuge classes in June 2015. The girl was always well dressed, with a homemade lunch.

Mrs Marama never met Moko but came under fire after his death when a media report implied she had been told by the little girl about the abuse her brother was suffering.

"There were no signs or alarming signs that Moko was being abused," Mrs Marama told Maori TV's Native Affairs programme.

Shailer was in regular contact with Ms Dally-Paki until two weeks before Moko's death.

"Her phone was off and I couldn't call to talk to him. Those are signs that I should've picked up on," Ms Dally-Paki would later tell TV3's Story.

Court documents outline what happened in the two months Moko lived with Shailer and Haerewa - the last two months of his life.

For some reason, they began to dislike the little boy and their "animosity" increased.

Haerewa would later tell police that he didn't like Moko's "ways" and he was angry that the 3-year-old took him and Shailer "for granted".

Both began to assault Moko. The degree of severity of the assaults escalated, with each encouraging and supporting the other in their behaviour.
Police summary of facts

A culture of violence against Moko evolved.

Shailer would punch, kick and slap Moko. On one occasion another child in the house saw her biting the toddler multiple times on his face and arms.

She bit him so hard that his skin would break and he would bleed.

Meanwhile, Haerewa got into a "routine" of picking on Moko. He kicked, slapped, threw and booted the little boy, and sometimes beat him with a jandal.

"He didn't want Moko around him ... didn't like Moko in his presence and would constantly have him in time out," the summary said.

Time out for Moko was being put in the bathroom for hours at a time, on his own.

It appears Haerewa abused Moko whenever he could. In a horrid twist, he is not the only child abuser in his family.

He is the uncle of Benny Haerewa, who killed 4-year-old James Whakaruru. James was systematically beaten for several years before the fatal attack in 1999.

Benny Haerewa was convicted of manslaughter and at sentencing it emerged that he had earlier served jail time for beating James when the youngster was just 2 years old.

The killing of Moko

It was around August 5 when the couple started to kill Moko. The abuse escalated to a point of no return.

Shailer stomped repeatedly on Moko's tummy with "significant force". Moko groaned, expelling bursts of air as the adult who was supposed to be caring for him brought her foot down - hard - again and again.

After the attack Moko lost control of his bowel.

Haerewa would later tell police that they made Moko sit on paper and plastic because he "kept sh**ting".

At some point around this time Moko suffered a fatal head injury.

It has not been established who of Shailer and Haerewa dealt the blow but it caused swelling on Moko's brain and, combined with earlier head injuries and the attack on his abdomen, left the boy with little chance of survival.

By August 6 it was clear little Moko was in trouble.

"As the week progressed he became increasingly unwell. He was defecating spontaneously frequently, unable to control his bowels," the summary revealed.

By Sunday, Moko could barely walk and his face was swelling significantly, to the point where he could barely open his eyes.
Summary of facts

His face began to bruise, consistent with a severe head injury, and he was vomiting.

Moko was left in his bedroom all day that Sunday. He begged for water and the first time Haerewa gave him some, but after that his pleas were ignored.

Haerewa kept abusing the boy, despite his obviously deteriorating health.

"In particular he kicked Moko in the lower back after he had defecated, then wiped the faeces in Moko's face," the court heard.

"He then washed Moko with such force that he removed scabs from his body. Moko was screaming in pain and Haerewa covered Moko's mouth to silence him."

While in the shower Moko fell, and was barely able to stand up.

Haerewa could see the boy was getting worse.

He dried Moko, put him in a nappy and "chucked" him back in his bedroom.

No one did anything to help the little boy.

By the next morning he could no longer communicate and was barely moving. When his abusers tried to force him to move the toddler would collapse to the ground.
Summary of facts

His breathing was laboured. His tummy was starting to get hard from his undiagnosed internal injuries.

Still, no one did anything to help him.

Shailer left the house and took her own kids to school. She spent the rest of the morning at home with Haerewa and then left the house again just before midday to attend a course.

At 2.20pm she got a ride home with a mate and asked to stop at a pharmacy. There, she tried to buy an EpiPen - a device used for injecting a measured dose or doses of epinephrine.

Most often used for the treatment of anaphylaxis the pens are carried by severe allergy sufferers. Shailer was told that the pens were not stocked but one could be ordered. She declined, and went home.

In the car she told her mate that Moko had "fallen from the woodpile" the day before. He was "okay", she said.

The friend told Shailer to get the little boy checked at Taupo Hospital in case he had a head injury and offered to drive them there.

Shailer said no.

Just before 3pm she was dropped off at home. She and Haerewa then decided to try and revive Moko.

Shailer gave the boy mouth-to-mouth while Haerewa picked their kids up from school.
At 3pm Shailer picked up the phone and called 111. Four days had now passed since she had stomped on the child.

Moko fell from a wood pile yesterday, she told the operator. He sustained "severe bruising", but had been okay up until now, she said.

Moko was now "really cold, unconscious, not breathing properly" and his stomach was "really hard".

Paramedics arrived minutes later to find little Moko lying face down in the hallway.
Shailer was kneeling by his feet.

The paramedic took one look at Moko, his injuries and near-dead condition, scooped the 3-year-old up from the floor and rushed him straight to the emergency department.

Hours later he was dead.

What Moko's sister saw

After Moko died, his mother revealed that her 7-year-old daughter had seen much of the abuse meted out to the toddler.

"She told me Moko had been locked in the bathroom for two weeks," Ms Dally-Paki told Story.

"She'd try and stay home from school to try and feed my son because they were starving him."

The 7-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told Ms Dally-Paki that she had begged Shailer and Haerewa to stop abusing her baby brother.

[She said] 'he wasn't talking, Mummy. I tried to tell David, and I told Tania he's not talking and he needs to see the doctor, and they wouldn't listen Mummy'.
Moko's sister, aged 7

"She said he was locked in the bathroom for two weeks, and that she tried to use toilet paper to wipe his bleeding eyes.

"She tried everything to save him. She was told to tell the police that she had hurt Moko."
Ms Dally-Paki's daughter was not spared from the attacks.

"She said [Shailer] used to punch [her] in the face when she'd smile, and drag her by the hair to get to school."

"They brainwashed her, they psychologically screwed her, and made her partake in the violence."

The Herald contacted Ms Dally-Paki and Mr Rangitoheriri for comment ahead of the sentencing of their son's killers. Neither responded.

Police issued a statement on behalf of the family, who sought privacy during a "very difficult time".

- NZ Herald

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