"If it wasn't for my other children, I wouldn't be here now. I would be locked up or six feet under."
This is the chilling comment made by Nikita Winiata, the Tauranga mother of 14-week-old Richard Royal Arif Te Kakahi Winiata Uddin who died at the hands of Surender Mehrok.
It formed part of Winiata's victim impact statement read by Crown prosecutor Justine Sutton in the Tauranga High Court yesterday during Mehrok's resentencing hearing.
Baby Royal, as he was known, died after suffering massive head injuries caused by Surender Singh Mehrok on June 7, 2016 while they boarded at the same Avenues address.
Mehrok, now aged 24, admitted causing the fatal injuries but denied he meant to kill the baby, claiming it was a case of manslaughter, not murder.
The 14-week-old died while his mother and her friends popped out for pizza for themselves and their children. They were away from the house for just over 30 minutes, returning to find Baby Royal covered in vomit and lifeless.
At his first trial in July 2017, Mehrok was convicted of murdering Baby Royal and sentenced to life imprisonment with a non-parole period of 14 years and six months.
He appealed the murder conviction and at a second trial in Hamilton High Court in August he was found not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter.
The evidence of a 5-year-old boy who saw Baby Royal get injured played a key role for the jury tasked with deciding their verdict.
The boy's evidence was that he saw Mehrok throw Baby Royal on to the bed and then hit his head on the wall.
The Crown medical experts confirmed Baby Royal's skull was shattered from the force of the assault and one said his skull "cracked like an egg", the court heard.
There were also several bruises on the child's body.
The defence's medical experts gave evidence that the baby's death was the result of a "single massive impact".
Winiata said she had fallen into a depression since her son's death, which led to her taking drugs and drinking alcohol to try numb the pain and was making bad decisions.
She said it had taken four years to find the courage to get counselling, the court heard.
"I've not been the same since the retrial. I'm having flashbacks of Baby Royal's head. "
Winiata said she was also having disturbed sleep and struggled to eat and she was "very sad" that her other children were growing up without Baby Royal in their lives.
"If it wasn't for my other children, I wouldn't be here now. I would be locked up or six feet under," she said.
The victim impact statement of Baby Royal's "heartbroken" father was also read to the court.
He said that his life was still filled with "intense sorrow and anger" for what happened to his son and still struggled to understand why Mehrok had done this.
"All my hopes and dreams for Richard as any father would have for their child, have been shattered. He is always close to my heart and I couldn't bear to sit through the retrial."
At the time of his offending, Mehrok was boarding at the address and his visa had expired.
Justice Christine Gordon imposed a sentence of seven years nine months prison with a minimum non-parole period of half of that sentence.
Justice Gordon said this also took into account that Mehrok had prior convictions for assaults on other children in the same household.
She rejected the defence lawyer Kerry Hadaway's submission that Mehrok's actions had been "a momentary, uncharacteristic lapse of control".
"No matter whether it was a single massive impact or more, this was still extreme violence being applied to a profoundly vulnerable victim with catastrophic results."
Justice Gordon said a non-parole period
was required to hold Mehrok responsible for the severity of the attack, and the harm to Baby Royal's whānau and also try to deter him and others for this type of offending.
At the time of his offending Mehrok's visa had expired and deportation orders were being prepared to send him back to India on his release from prison, she said.