A Hamilton couple have broken their silence after a nightmare month during which they were wrongly suspected by some people of involvement in the death of their baby girl.

Shirleen Emery, 27, and Michael Kohunui, 28, said they can finally grieve after being given some answers this week when a pathologist called and told them initial indications were that their 8-month-old daughter Hinepukohurangi Emery-Kohunui, "Hine", had died from a cardiac arrest, which led to a lack of oxygen and resulted in swelling to the brain.

They still do not know what caused the heart attack of the baby who was meeting all her milestones.

The little girl, remembered by her parents as being cheeky, loud and very determined, died on December 10 at the family's Frances St, Hamilton, flat.


"She used to grab things and pull herself up. She was pretty strong for a baby," Mr Kohunui said.

"Her favourite thing was her Jolly Jumper. She loved that thing"

The first sign things were wrong came the day before Hinepukohurangi died when Mr Kohunui was woken at 5am by a loud cry coming from his daughter, sleeping in the next room. He said he checked on her and she re-settled after he tucked her in.

Then before leaving for work at a catering firm at about 8am, Ms Emery went to check on her little girl who usually woke up to the sounds of her mother getting ready.

But Hinepukohurangi was still.

Mr Kohunui heard his partner's cry for help, rushed in and tried giving his daughter a little rock to wake her. When she did not respond he rolled her on to her back and saw her lips and eyes were purple.

He said he thought she was choking so put his finger in her mouth to clear her airway. He said that when her breathing sounded more regular he thought she would be OK.

Meanwhile, Ms Emery called St John and Hinepukohurangi was taken to Waikato Hospital where she died the next day.


Police also arrived at the block of flats and carried out a scene investigation into what they initially called unexplained injuries. The couple had to spend three nights at the hospital as they were not allowed back in their flat.

Ms Emery said Hinepukohurangi had no visible physical injuries. However, when a post-mortem examination was carried out two days later police said it was no longer being treated as unexplained and ruled out any suspicious circumstances.

Mr Kohunui said the three days following their daughter's death were awful as they slept at the hospital and avoided accusing glares from strangers.

"We've been pretty much drowning ourselves. This has probably been the first week that we've sought help and got medications to help us.

"I don't think we've grieved yet, really, because of all the dramas and stuff going on at the same time - getting harassed and all that. Not being able to walk outside without people saying something or looking at us funny.

"The only ones that didn't were our friends and family because they knew us."

The couple only felt ready to return home a few weeks ago and will keep their daughter's ashes in her room until they are ready to decide what to do next.

Their flat is scattered with photos of the baby and a banner with her name hangs in the couple's bedroom.

"What I really wanted was our name to be cleared," Mr Kohunui said.

"Out there so far is that we did something bad to her."

Ms Emery said she had never imagined she would be having to deal with her daughter's death.

The coroner's report will be released later this year.