A man who caused a head-on smash that killed him and an innocent Auckland woman was accused of murdering a 22-month-old girl by forcing her face into scalding water, causing burns that were eventually fatal.
Rikki Hopa, who also used the surname Hotham, 30, was on the wrong side of the road overtaking a truck when his car ploughed head-on into a four-wheel-drive vehicle driven by Auckland mother Angela Eliza Wolley, on State Highway 1, near Tokoroa last Saturday.
He and Ms Wolley, 32, died at the scene.
Hopa was on bail awaiting trial for murdering Tokoroa toddler Tyla-Maree Daryl Flynn, who died on June 29 last year, one day after being severely burned on her face, shoulders, torso and back.
Court documents released to the Weekend Herald reveal that medical experts and police believe Hopa also inflicted burns consistent with cigarette marks on the toddler's genitals, inner knee and neck which were "extremely unlikely to be accidental". She also had a bruised head.
Hopa, who was minding Tyla and her two siblings while their mother was out, was charged on April 8 with the girl's murder.
He was remanded in custody, but at a hearing a fortnight later, Judge Patrick Treston released him on bail.
He appeared in the High Court at Rotorua on September 4 and entered a not guilty plea. He was to have reappeared for a pre-trial hearing on November 6, and his trial was to have been held in February.
Instead, the murder charge will be withdrawn next month.
Hopa said Tyla was injured when her 4-year-old brother turned on the shower.
But medical experts told police that Tyla's injuries were caused by being "immersed face-first in a vessel of water".
The experts said Tyla would have survived with few long-term effects if she had been given treatment earlier.
But she wasn't taken to Tokoroa Hospital until the next morning - about 17 hours after being burned.
Tyla's mother, Lisa Barron, then aged 23, didn't see her daughter until the morning, when she rushed her to hospital.
Staff at the hospital were so horrified by the little girl's injuries that many needed counselling.
"It would be one of the worst cases I've worked on, with what was inflicted to this baby," said Tokoroa CIB head Detective Sergeant Kevan Verry.
"It was quite gut-wrenching. I've got kids, and at the time I had one the same age. Most of the inquiry team, we've all got infants. Just about every member of the inquiry was hit by the horrific nature of it."
Sergeant Dave Frazer, of Taupo, said alcohol was a suspected factor in the crash, but police were waiting for test results.
If Hopa had been drinking, he was breaching his strict bail conditions.
He had already breached those conditions - which included not using alcohol or drugs and not contacting children under 16 - by reporting to police while drunk about three months ago.
He was found to have cannabis when officers searched him.
It is believed Lisa Barron stood by Hopa and that she is in the early stages of another pregnancy to him.
She declined to comment when the Weekend Herald contacted her yesterday.
Victim one: Tyla-Maree Flynn
Tyla-Maree Flynn was an "adorable" little girl who loved to sing the "I love you, you love me" theme song of her favourite TV character, Barney the purple dinosaur.
Her aunt Jody Thomas, 32, said Tyla, as she was known to her family, was "a real little honey. She was an adorable little girl - awesome".
Miss Thomas said Tyla often stayed at her home, and her cousins thought she was the "bee's knees".
"She was well cared for and well loved by a lot of people."
Miss Thomas said her brother, Tyla's father, William Daryl Flynn-Houkamau, 22, had been fighting for custody of his daughter when he was killed in a car crash near Napier on December 4 last year.
The family's thoughts are also with the family of Angela Wolley, the Auckland woman killed in the crash caused by Rikki Hopa last Saturday.
"I feel for them. I pray for them at night," Miss Thomas said.
The family are now preparing for the double unveiling of Mr Flynn's and Tyla's headstones, which are side by side at Wharerangi Cemetery in Napier.
Victim two: Angela Wolley
Angela Wolley was an inspirational marketing professional and a loving mother, her friends and colleagues say.
The 32-year-old from Mt Eden, farewelled at a funeral in Auckland yesterday, was killed when her car was hit head-on on State Highway 1, about 5km north of Tokoroa last Saturday.
Ms Wolley's mother, Glenda, not only spent last week grieving for her daughter, but also recovering from a heart attack which she had two days after learning of the death.
Ms Wolley also left her 12-year-old daughter, Elise, and two younger siblings, Monica and Mathew.
Shocked colleagues of Ms Wolley, who was months into a new job as the online marketing manager at Tower Insurance, posted items on a website after her death.
"She was an inspiration to us all," one person wrote.
"She had so much energy and enthusiasm - everything she did was done with such passion."
Another wrote: "She had strength and character like the wine she loved. She had beauty like the wild places to which she liked to escape."