Inquest held into death of infant

By Cherie Taylor

A Rotorua woman jailed for the death of her baby while they slept together in a car was told by her midwife it was safe to sleep with the baby, the coroner's court has heard.

Coroner Dr Wallace Bain heard at the inquest, held yesterday, into the death of baby Tahi Elvis Edwards that his mother, Ngaire Kura Tukiwaho, who previously lost a child to SIDS, was told by midwife Francis Kissling it was safe to sleep with baby so long as baby's face was up and clear of blankets or obstructions.

Tahi, two months old, was sleeping cuddled into his mother's shoulder in the back seat of a car while she was heavily intoxicated on January 5 last year. He slipped under her arm and suffocated, the inquest heard. She was charged with manslaughter, pleading guilty and was jailed for two years and one month jail in May. The Government ordered an investigation on the family.

No members of the family attended the inquest. Tukiwaho's three other children are in the care of Child Youth and Family.

Rotorua Detective Chris Kerekere told the court Tahi was born at 39 weeks but was small for his size.

The midwife spoke with her about the loss of her other son Hoani in 2009 and provided her information about SIDS prevention. Then when she visited Tukiwaho at home Ms Kissling told Mr Kerekere she was told there was co-sleeping going on but a cot was due to arrive, he told the court.

He said the midwife told him "there can be safe bed sharing as long as the face is up and the face is clear - that is our motto".

Mr Kerekere said Tukiwaho and her partner Michael Edwards got into an argument before she left the home, walking to her sister's home, where she had been drinking most of the day.

Unable to wake anyone in the house, she climbed into the backseat of a car in the driveway. Tahi was pulled out of his pram during the night by his mother and put on her shoulder to sleep.

Tukiwaho woke to find baby had slipped under her arm and not breathing, he said in evidence.

Police said heavy drinking sessions were part and parcel of life for Tukiwaho even during pregnancy.

Dr Bain adjourned the hearing to get more information about the comments made to police by the midwife.

Meanwhile, Child Youth and Family has released a report into its investigation into the family stating the family was not known to the service.

None of the family or professionals sought help for Tukiwaho about alcohol abuse despite there being a pattern of substance abuse across the family.

The service was not notified of any concerns regarding Tahi, the report states.

"Child, Youth and Family only ever get intervene in the lives of New Zealand families when the service is provided with information from others which suggests a child or young person may be at risk of harm," the report states.

It states the case provides an example of how family, communities and professionals need to come together to ensure the safety of children and to support parents in need.


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