Key Points:

The mother of the three-year-old subjected to weeks of abuse allegedly told doctors the injuries were a result of her daughter falling off her partner's shoulders.

More details are starting to emerge about the terrifying ordeal which almost cost Rotorua toddler Nia Marie Glassie her life last week - including allegations she suffered burns to her head and feet after being put in the fireplace. Five people have already been charged.

Last night police would not comment about what Lisa Michelle Kuka had told doctors when she first arrived at Rotorua Hospital with Nia, who that morning had been suffering from convulsions.

The girl - who last night remained in Auckland's Starship Hospital in a drug-induced coma - was also allegedly dropped into an ice-cold bath before spending up to 30 minutes being spun around in a tumble dryer.

There were reports of her being left screaming on the roof of her Frank St house, being spun on a clothes line until she flew off - and being used by her abusers to practise wrestling moves on.

It is also understood Nia was made to run around the house naked and was left outside for more than an hour at a time in freezing temperatures.

The injuries were allegedly inflicted between March and July, but intensified in the three days before treatment was sought a week ago, around the time of a 21st birthday party to which police were called. According to neighbours, the party had erupted into fights, swearing and cars speeding along the street.

Nia's injuries were initially thought to be life-threatening, but police said although she was still critically ill, it was no longer thought she would die although she may have permanent brain damage.

Police will this week extend the investigation to other family members and staff from a kohanga Nia was attending.

Comparisons are being drawn between this case and that of Wairarapa toddler Hinewaoriki Karaitiana-Matiaha, better known as Lillybing, who died seven years ago after being severely ill-treated.

Today the Herald on Sunday can reveal that Nia's mother, 34-year-old Te Puke kiwifruit worker Kuka, took her daughter to Rotorua Hospital on Sunday morning saying the serious head and abdominal injuries were not a result of the girl being repeatedly assaulted, but rather a case of her falling off her 17-year-old partner's shoulders.

Kuka was away from the house during the day, working as a kiwifruit picker in Te Puke.

She has not been charged by police, who are still investigating.

The partner, Wiremu Te Aroha Te Whanau Curtis, has been charged with assault and bailed to an Auckland address. He did not want to comment about the case on Friday.

Wiremu's brother, 21-year-old Michael David Curtis, Michael's partner 17-year-old Oriwa Terrina Reta Kemp and 19-year-old Michael Paul Pearson have also been charged with assault and have been remanded in custody. They will seek bail tomorrow.

On Friday, Wiremu Curtis' father, 47-year-old Rotorua driver William Curtis, was also charged with assault on a child and injuring with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. It is alleged those injuries were inflicted at another address.

He was remanded in custody to reappear tomorrow.

Kuka has been granted supervised access to Nia and is with her daughter at Starship. Her two other children, a 10-year-old boy and an 8-year-old girl, have been taken into Child Youth and Family custody and put into the care of an unnamed family member.

Nia's paternal grandfather, Glassie Glassie snr, said what had happened to their granddaughter was "disgusting".

He said Nia's father, Glassie Glassie jnr, a demolition worker, was planning to return from New South Wales to be with his daughter.

Kuka and Glassie jnr met 11 years ago in Waihi. He is the father of the two other children now in CYF custody.

Glassie snr told the Herald on Sunday he had had little contact with his granddaughter since she moved from Tokoroa to Rotorua last year.

"In my heart right now I just want my grandchild to pull through, she is a young child. Baby is cute, I look at her and think what a little nice granddaughter I have. She has a big smile," he said.

"I told my son about what happened and he was angry.

"I have been watching this on the news and reading it in the paper. I don't know why [this has happened].

"She doesn't deserve to be treated like that."


Brother is told to pray for Nia

It was the toughest job Celline Glassie has ever had - breaking the news to her 11-year-old grandson that his sister was "sick in hospital".

Worried that Nia's brother may hear elsewhere about her three-month ordeal at the hands of her alleged abusers, the 52-year-old says she was faced with no other choice but to share the truth with the boy.

"He was hurt, he was crying, but he didn't say anything when I told him what had happened. He has been asking for his little sister, he misses her very much," Celline told the Herald on Sunday.

"I said, 'boy, I don't know how to tell you this but your little sister is sick in hospital, she is very sick'.

"I couldn't tell him the full story and I told him not to be angry and for him to pray for his sister.

"I told him that if he loves her she will get out of it and be better and recovered."

Nia, she said, was "a good girl" who "loves playing games with cards".

"She just sits on the chair and does what her older brother is doing. She likes to pick on her little sisters in a game way."

Nia's aunt, Vaine Glassie, 16, said the last time she babysat the little girl she remembered her being "quiet". "All she wanted to do was play with her little brother.

"She would run to him when she was sad or hurt."


The story so far

* Police claim that between March and July 3-year-old Nia Glassie was abused and tortured at separate addresses in Rotorua.

* Police say that the abuse intensified in the three days before last Sunday, when Nia's mother Lisa Kuka sought hospital treatment for her daughter in Rotorua.

* After being seen by doctors in Rotorua last Sunday, Nia was flown to Starship hospital in Auckland with abdominal injuries and bleeding on the brain. Last night the 3-year-old remained in the hospital a drug-induced coma.

* On Thursday, July 26, details emerged of the horrific abuse suffered by the 3-year-old, including how she was hung on a clothes line and spun in a clothes dryer. That day four people, were arrested and charged with assault - three men aged 21, 19 and 17 and a 17-year-old woman, all Rotorua residents.

* On Friday, the father of Kuka's 17-year-old partner was arrested and charged with assault and injuring with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.