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

Murdered toddler Nia Glassie's killer mother back in prison

Nia Glassie, the 3-year-old toddler who was subjected to horrific abuse by her extended family. Photo / Supplied
Nia Glassie, the 3-year-old toddler who was subjected to horrific abuse by her extended family. Photo / Supplied

The mother of murdered toddler Nia Glassie has been recalled to prison after authorities became concerned that she was was "a risk to the community".

Lisa Kuka was jailed for nine years on two counts of manslaughter following 3-year-old Nia's brutal death in Rotorua in August 2007.

The case remains one of New Zealand's worst examples of child abuse.

Kuka was granted parole less than two years ago, but is now back behind bars after she allegedly breached her release conditions by living at an unapproved property.

She appeared in the Manukau District Court earlier this month charged with breaching parole and was subsequently recalled to prison.

She is yet to be sentenced but a final recall order was granted and she is back in prison.

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"Following a prompt Department of Corrections application based on their monitoring of the offender's compliance with release conditions, and their view she was a risk to the community, Ms Kuka was recalled by the Board on 22 August," a Parole Board spokesman confirmed.

Corrections northern region acting operations manager Ana Cullen said Kuka had moved to an unapproved address without the permission of her probation officer.

That resulted in what Corrections allege were "several breaches" of her conditions.

Cullen did not specify what those breaches were.

When Kuka was released from prison on 22 September 2014 she was ordered to abide by strict conditions until her sentence end-date in October 2017 including:

• A curfew of 11pm-5am

• Notifying her probation officer "before entering into an intimate relationship"

• Obtaining approval from her probation officer before contacting any of her five surviving children or before having any child under the age of 16 stay with her overnight.

• No contact with her co-offenders without written consent from probation

• Kuka was also banned from initiating any contact with journalists including via Twitter, Facebook, websites or blogs and has been told she must say "no comment" to any request for an interview or information and to discourage friends and family from media contact.

The conditions were set by the board and Kuka's compliance monitored by her probation officer for Corrections.

Nia's mother Lisa Kuka was convicted on two counts of manslaughter. Photo / Rotorua Daily Post
Nia's mother Lisa Kuka was convicted on two counts of manslaughter. Photo / Rotorua Daily Post

"Our primary priority is the safety of the community," said Cullen.

"An offender can be recalled if they pose an undue risk to the safety of the community, have breached their release conditions, have committed an offence punishable by imprisonment or, if subject to residential restrictions, their address becomes unsuitable or unavailable."

In February this year Kuka appeared before the board for a monitoring hearing during which they reviewed her conduct while on parole.

"Ms Kuka has made solid progress on parole. She is in a very stable environment. There is no need for the Board to see her again for a further monitoring hearing," said convenor Neville Trendle, a barrister and retired police officer.

Kuka had earlier been refused parole in 2013, with the board ruling she remained an "an undue risk to the safety of the community".

At the time the board heard that Kuka had "taken a long time to come to terms with her responsibility for the death of her daughter".

Only through psychological counselling had she acknowledge her role in the "persistent and violent abuse, and ultimate death" of Nia.

The death of Nia Glassie

Nia died on August 3, 2007 from head injuries. She had been in Starship Hospital on life support for 13 days before she passed away.

It later emerged that the toddler had been subjected to horrific ongoing abuse which shocked and angered New Zealanders.

Nia had been put in a clothes dryer spinning for 30 minutes on a hot setting, hung on a clothesline and spun around, held over a burning fire, used to practise wrestling moves, folded into a couch and sat upon, shoved into piles of rubbish and cold baths, dragged half naked through a sandpit, thrown at walls and dropped from heights, and had various objects hurled at her.

Little Nia was also kicked, slapped, beaten and jumped on.

Nia Glassie's grave. Photo / Rotorua Daily Post
Nia Glassie's grave. Photo / Rotorua Daily Post

The abuse was mainly perpetrated by Kuka's then-partner Wiremu Curtis and his brother Michael, while she was at work.

The brothers had decided they did not like Nia, that she was "ugly" and they began to abuse, attack and assault her for their own entertainment.

After the fatal attack on Nia in July 2007, believed to be repeated kicks to her head, she was left for 33 hours before medical help was sought.

Kuka found Nia had wet her bed, which was unusual, and would not wake up. She bathed the child, who was effectively unconscious.

But she did nothing to help the injured girl until the next day, after Kuka had spent the night celebrating Michael Curtis' 21st birthday.

As Kuka, the Curtis brothers and others partied outside at their rented Rotorua house, Nia lay dying in her bed.

When she was admitted to Starship Nia's brain damage was so severe that she could no longer breathe for herself.

A jury found the Curtis brothers guilty of Nia's murder.

Kuka was convicted of two counts of manslaughter - one for failing to provide Nia the necessaries of life and the other for failing to protect the child from violence, thereby causing her death.

NIa's cousin Michael Pearson and his partner Oriwa Kemp were found not guilty of manslaughter, but convicted of assaulting the little girl.

Kuka will appear before the Parole Board again in November.

- NZ Herald

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