A Northland mum who lost her pregnant daughter to a seven-time recidivist drink driver has spoken of the moments in which their lives were torn apart and the pain that won't go.
Sarah Rihari's daughter Nga Roimata Beattie-Rihari, 18, and unborn granddaughter Pryncess Diana were killed by Ioakimi Sale, 43, in Moerewa during last year's Covid-19 lockdown.
Rihari together with Missie Brown - her daughter's future mother-in-law and Pryncess Diana's grandmother - told of their wrestle with grief and stigma as Wāhine Toa from Moerewa.
At 7.30pm on April 19, Beattie-Rihari sat in the driver's seat of a car parked on Mason Ave eating popcorn with her close friend – Brown's niece – while they waited for her boyfriend.
They had returned to the address after dropping Rihari home to prepare dinner for the trio.
Rihari told her daughter as she left to pick up her boyfriend: "I'm going to put the pot on…don't you and Troy* be too long".
As she was preparing dinner, another family member and his partner showed up at the house.
"He said Sarah, you've gotta come now – it's Roi. I thought what has she done now – has she crashed her sister's car trying to reverse it.
"But then we got there and there were fire trucks and my daughter's dead on the road. My pot hadn't even heated up. Ten minutes was it all took for him to rip my world apart."
Sale had spent seven hours prior to the crash drinking excessively. At one point he'd driven to a local store to top up his booze supply.
He was almost four times over the drink-drive limit and angry when he got into his car and reversed down his girlfriend's driveway – zig-zagging at high speed down Mason Ave.
A family member reportedly rushed from the property, begging him to stop.
Upon seeing Sale tear towards them, the two teens tried to flee their car. Beattie-Rihari's friend tugged her pregnant bestie but couldn't get her out in time.
Sale ploughed into the car, which slammed it into another parked car, then a power pole. The force of the crash threw Beattie-Rihari onto the road.
"The man who was there resuscitating my daughter said she died instantly, that's how bad it was," Rihari said.
Troy's cousins spilled from the Mason Ave house and caught Sale as he fled on foot. They forced him to hold onto a power pole until police arrived.
Sale pleaded guilty to driving with excess breath alcohol causing Beattie-Rihari's death.
He admitted leaving the scene of an accident without checking if anyone was injured, and to breaching an order under the Health Act to isolate at home.
Sale was sentenced to four years, six months jail and disqualified from driving for six years at the Kaikohe District Court in December last year.
Auckland whanāu came north to drive the families to Sale's court appearances in Kaikohe and Whangārei as they were "too broken".
The court experience was isolating for Rihari's family because Covid-19 restrictions mandated only two people were allowed in the room.
"…we were three seats apart from each other so you couldn't hold one another despite how broken we all were," Rihari said.
Brown said they were lucky if the court appearances lasted five minutes.
"We'd walk in ready to have the court case and then everyone would say their piece – bam, bam, bam – adjourned until September. Then we just walk out."
The family were shocked at the Sale's sentencing when he was granted discounts for an early guilty plea – despite Rihari saying it was an eight month wait – and for "turning up" to the restorative justice meeting.
"None of that gave us justice. Nothing came out of the restorative justice meeting for us. How is my daughter supposed to rest in peace, and my granddaughter, when the system served him not us."
Rihari was told with good behaviour Sale could be released from prison earlier.
"How can you smash three cars, hit a house, move a power pole, and kill two people in under 100 metres and have the chance to get out early for good behaviour."
During the court process Rihari said only the "amazing" crown prosecutor had made the family feel visible.
"Until Richard nobody had made any effort to take us aside and explain to us what was happening and why."
Lockdown restrictions also saw the family given 24-hours to be with their daughter and granddaughter one last time.
"It was horrible because we could only have them for a night. Having a funeral like that during Covid is ugly," Rihari said. "You're only allowed 10 people and we're from big Māori families."
"A lot of people were respectful; they stayed out of the gates. We didn't have elderly and we didn't have babies. As awful as it was, it was still a beautiful send off for our girls."
As the funeral passed and the court case unfolded so did distressing media coverage of the tragedy.
"Moerewa, pregnant teenager, drink driving. They [the media] stuck that all in one sentence and that broke us. That broke Roi's mana. She wasn't a drunk teenager at a party."
Beattie-Rihari was a funny and passionate woman, who cared about others – evident in her role as a mentor at the Moerewa Youth Centre, Brown said.
"She was all about the love for life, she loved everybody. She put a smile on everybody's faces."
Rihari's longing for her daughter saw her turn to alcohol as a salve.
"I missed my baby so much. Ringing me every morning, every night. Saying I love you…just anything and everything but now I had nothing."
She turned to Māori culture as grief overwhelmed her – but felt that, too, was been taken away.
"I was sent to a Pākehā woman for counselling, but I'm a Māori woman who should've had a Māori counsellor because of our spiritual beliefs.
"No offence to her but I felt judged for being Māori and for living in Moerewa. Māori people need a better outfit out there for us," Rihari said.
Months of push back saw her finally access a Māori counsellor in Rawene – an 80-minute round trip.
"You go up there, spill your guts out and it's nothing you can put back in. So, I'm driving back raw, crying, it's raining. I see a truck coming toward me and think, I'm just going to kill myself."
But her love for her eldest daughter, her son, and two grandsons kept her going.
Brown had tried to get counselling support for her son and Beattie-Rihari's boyfriend as well as the best friend who'd tried to save her and was now "going off the rails".
"But no-one had the space to help us. Moerewa is too far away, and there's not enough help available.
"Everything's being ripped away from them but what can we do," she said.
Even Brown's efforts to get help for her own ailing mental health over the deaths of "Roi" and Pryncess Diana had hit a brick wall.
She was told there was no availability for two months at Hauora Whānui in Kawakawa by staff at the Ngati Hine Health Trust.
"I asked if they were able to do anything, find anyone else, and she said I'm sorry there's no-one else in the area that's able to do this mahi."
"It feels like we're still being punished."
Rihari said they will continue to fight for justice that serves the people and not the system.
"We're not rested. We're stirred up, we're still angry. We want a proper trial."
*Nga Roimata Beattie-Rihari's boyfriend did not want his real name used.
Where to get help:
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youth services: (06) 3555 906
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• Helpline: 1737
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.