This story from the Herald archives originally appeared in May 2016.

Death was not quick or painless for 3-year-old Moko Rangitoheriri.

The toddler was beaten to the point where he suffered facial swelling, internal bleeding, septic shock from his leaking bowel and swelling of the brain.

He was left in that state for four days before his caregivers called 111.


But the injuries that killed Moko were not the only ones inflicted on him. Between June 12 and August 10 Moko was kicked, slapped, stomped on and bitten by those entrusted to care for him - 26-year-old Tania Shailer and 43-year-old David William Haerewa.

Moko is one of hundreds in a shameful list of New Zealand children who have died as a result of neglect, abuse, or maltreatment since 1992.

Shailer and Haerewa, previously charged with murder, pleaded guilty to lesser charges of manslaughter and ill treating a child today in the High Court at Rotorua.

Tania Shailer and David William Haerewa either side of a Department of Corrections officer.
Tania Shailer and David William Haerewa either side of a Department of Corrections officer.

The pair had previously pleaded not guilty to manslaughter, ill treating a child and murder. They were due to stand trial for murder but instead lodged pleas to the lesser charges.

The public gallery was full of family members who sat silently crying. Haerewa kept his head lowered throughout the court appearance while Shailer stared straight ahead, showing little emotion.

According to the summary of facts, obtained by the Rotorua Daily Post, Moko and his 7-year-old sister were left in the care of the couple on June 12 for what was expected to be a short period of time.

During the two months Moko was living with Haerewa and Shailer, their animosity towards the toddler increased.

Haerewa told police he "didn't like [Moko's] ways" and that he was "angry at him for taking us for granted".


The couple began assaulting the toddler with the severity of the assaults escalating.
Haerewa admitted to police that he continually assaulted Moko, especially during the four days prior to his death.

The main injuries that caused the toddler's death were inflicted by Shailer who forcefully stomped on his abdomen and stomach. The summary states it is unclear when she did this, but evidence suggests it was on August 6.

By August 9 Moko could barely walk, had significant swelling to the face, kept falling to the ground and was defecating and vomiting frequently.

Moko suffered lacerations and haemorrhaging deep within his abdomen and, coupled with older bruising and damage, a rupture to his bowel.

On August 10 Shailer phoned 111 saying Moko had fallen from a wood pile the day before, sustaining severe bruising. She told the operator that he had been fine earlier in the day but was now "really cold, unconscious, not breathing properly and that his stomach was really hard."

Upon arriving at Shailer and Haerewa's address and seeing the visual injuries and condition of Moko, paramedic staff rushed him straight to the emergency department at Taupo Hospital.

By 10pm that evening Moko's ordeal had ended - he was pronounced dead.

Shailer and Haerewa were remanded in custody and will next appear for sentencing on June 27.