David Haerewa and Tania Shailer.

These are names that, until recently meant nothing to most New Zealanders.

Now they are synonymous with, arguably, the most shocking case of child abuse in the last decade.

They are the couple who killed 3-year-old Moko Rangitoheriri, subjecting him to horrific violence that reached a level of torture in the 59 days leading up to his death.


Moko's violent and tragic last days
Moko's mum: 'It's premeditated murder'

Last month Shailer, 26, and Haerewa, 44, were sentenced to 17 years in jail with a minimum non-parole period of nine years after pleading guilty to manslaughter.

This week Justice Sarah Katz granted the Herald on Sunday access to parts of the court file, including submissions from Shailer and Haerewa's lawyers that reveal the life stories of these violent killers - who they are, how they were raised and what led them to brutally end the life of a toddler they were supposed to be caring for.

David William Haerewa - a 'transient' upbringing

Haerewa was born on 21 October 1971 in Waipukarau to Tuakaua and Tuta Haerewa. He was the youngest of their 13 children.

His father died when he was one and his mother when he was a teenager.

When she died Haerewa and four of his 12 siblings were taken in by an aunt and uncle.

Haerewa's teenage years were "characterised by a transient lifestyle" and he started offending when he was 13.

A year later he notched up his first criminal conviction after he was caught stealing from a vehicle in April 1986.

He appeared in the Porirua District Court where he was "admonished and discharged" but continued to be a regular in the youth court over the next three years - generally the result of pinching cars and other thefts.

Haerewa was put in a number of "institutions" including Epuni Boys' Home in Lower Hutt.

Nothing curbed his criminal tenancies though.

He moved out of his aunt and uncle's home when he was 16 and by 1989, soon after he turned 18, he'd made his debut in the district court.

In 1991 he was jailed for the first time after he assaulted a woman. He was sentenced to four months in prison.

Over the next 16 years Haerewa moved around the North Island committing crime, going to jail, getting out and repeating.

His penchant for other people's cars and property continued, and he regularly got pinged for burglary, shoplifting, theft and receiving.

Breaching bail or periodic detention, driving while disqualified, shoplifting and drink driving also feature heavily on his rap sheet, provided to the Herald on Sunday by the court.

In 2006 Haerewa, now living in Tokoroa, was diagnosed with schizophrenia and prescribed medication to control his condition.

The medication may have gone some way to helping him as he managed to stay out of court and jail for a while. But perhaps it had more to do with meeting a new woman - Tania Shailer.

Tania Shailer - baby of the family

Like Haerewa, Shailer was the youngest child in her family. She was born on 24 May 1989 in Tokoroa and has five elder siblings - four sisters and a brother.

A nine-year age gap between Shailer and her closest sibling, she was the baby of the family on every level.

In her submission to the court Shailer said she was raised largely by three of her sisters.

She attended Te Kura Kaupapa Otihina a Kohunga Reo in Tokoroa during her primary and intermediate school years and then enrolled at Tokoroa High School.

Fluent in Te Reo Maori, Shailer's culture was a big part of her early life. She was intelligent and capable but left school at 15, at the end of her 4th Form year.

"Unfortunately this mean that (Shailer) left school without any formal qualifications, something which she regretted and tried to rectify later in life," her lawyer told the court.

The reason (Shailer) left school at this age was because she had commenced a relationship with a young male which, from the outset, had issues.

Further, she had started to experiment with alcohol and cannabis. (She) moved away from home and began living with her boyfriend and his parents."

The relationship did not last and shortly after the couple separated Shailer discovered she was pregnant. She later miscarried.

Justice for Moko protest at the Auckland High Court in June. Photo / Nick Reed
Justice for Moko protest at the Auckland High Court in June. Photo / Nick Reed

At that stage her relationship with her family was strained. They were unhappy with her lifestyle so when she lost the baby she felt she could not turn to them.

She eventually told one of her sisters but the loss and lack of support afterwards deeply affected her.

At 16 Shailer moved in with her eldest sister. She looked after the sister's children while she and her husband were at work.

Six months later she moved back into the family home with her parents. She was still abusing drugs and usually purchased them from her mate Nicola Dally-Paki, her lawyer told the court last month.

Dally-Paki, according to Shailer, was "well known as a local drug dealer".

At 18 life started to look up for Shailer. She got a full time job at the TKRT Kohunga in Tokoroa, meaning she could spend a lot of time with her beloved nieces and nephews.

She took up educational opportunities that came her way through work, attending and completing a business administration course.

Then, she met a man.

David Haerewa was older than her. The 36-year-old had ties to the Mongrel Mob - in fact he was once a patched member - but when she met him he said he was out of that scene and working as a farm hand in Tokoroa.

Love, drugs, babies and family violence

After meeting Haerewa, Shailer moved out of her parent's home and into her own flat. Her new boyfriend moved in soon after and Shailer then learned he had a child by another woman.

Child Youth and Family were about to take the boy out of his mother's care due to, according to Haerewa, her "destructive drinking habits".

An agreement was reached between the whanau and CYF and the boy came to live with Shailer and Haerewa.

According to her lawyer, from the day the boy was put in her care, Shailer considered him her own son.

Not long after the boy arrived Haerewa started to drink excessively.

He was before the courts regularly - wilful damage, breaching bail, disorderly behaviour and contravening a protection order.

Shailer's family again turned their backs on her, unhappy with her relationship.

She fell pregnant at 19 and broke up with Haerewa not long after, unwilling to live with his alcohol and drug abuse.

"Haerewa was increasingly verbally abusive towards her ... (and) started to associate with local members of Black Power and began to become involved in their various illegal activities," the court heard at sentencing last month.

Shailer also feared Haerewa had "become involved with methamphetamine".

Before their child was born, Haerewa and Shailer reconciled and made plans to move from Tokoroa.

He headed to Levin where he had family, but before Shailer could join him a warrant was issued for his arrest and he went on the run.

Shailer decided not to go to Levin and went to stay with her aunt and uncle in Foxton.

Haerewa was sent to prison for five months for possession of an offensive weapon, possession of a knife, wilful damage and disorderly behaviour likely to cause violence.

Shailer again went back to her parents' home and gave birth to a little girl while Haerewa was still inside. He was not at the birth.

New beginnings, old habits

After his release he and Shailer moved to Papamoa and for a start, lived in a campground.

Haerewa was unemployed and Shailer was forced to get a job at a local orchard.

They stayed in the Papamoa are for three years and welcomed another daughter to their family.

Haerewa stayed out of trouble for that three years - there are no convictions recorded for him between his release from prison and early 2014.

The family moved to Hastings. Haerewa's brother had recently died and he wanted to build a relationship with the rest of his family who had effectively cut him off due to his Mongrel Mob ties.

He found a home for his partner and kids and, the court heard, "life was good for a time".

Gang life soon proved too attractive for Haerewa and he fell back in with the Mob.

History repeated and he started to abuse drugs and alcohol again, and verbally abuse Shailer.

Haerewa was careful to ensure that any physical injuries sustained by (Shailer) could be concealed from other family members and friends.


They had another child during this time and after that the domestic abuse escalated.

Haerewa became increasingly violent towards Shailer and she was "subjected to prolonged and sustained acts of significant violence" in the family home.

The defence submission outlines what Shailer went through.

"He was ashamed of the abuse he was inflicting ... however, this did not cause it to cease.

"As his drug and alcohol use spiralled out of control the violence steadily increased in severity."

Shailer said she was "powerless" to stop or deal with the abuse.

She was busy caring for four young children and Haerewa was an absent father much of the time. But after he punched her in the face in front of the kids, she took action.

Breaking the cycle, almost

Until that point the children had never seen any abuse or violence.

The court would later hear Child Youth and Family nor police had received any reports of concern about the Haerewa children's welfare or safety.

Shailer contacted a social worker and, supported by the Women's Refuge, packed up the kids and left Haerewa.

She spent three months living in a safe house, well away from her violent partner, and in November 2013 refuge staff helped her find a house and relocate to Taupo.

Haerewa had been sent to prison in the meantime, for one year and four months after he was convicted of burglary.

Knowing she was safe, Shailer enrolled in correspondence school and started a bridging course that would allow her to complete NCEA.

She also started a computer skills course and undertook other programmes and counselling through the refuge.

She wanted, and needed, the tools to be able to deal with "future situations of violence and or hardship".

It's important to note that Shailer went through a period of criminal offending herself in the months before she left Haerewa.

In a short space of time - Christmas Eve in 2012 to the end of February in 2013 - she clocked up six convictions for shoplifting.

However, none of the offending was hugely serious - mostly items valued at less than $500 - and is was the only time in her life she had been before the courts.

So Taupo wasn't just an escape from Haerewa, it was a chance for Shailer to walk away from crime.

Her new chapter started well, but didn't last long.

She began to feel that her kids needed their father in their lives, that a relationship with him was important.

In early 2014 he arrived in Taupo, and moved in with his family.

Despite the family being back together and Haerewa keeping out of trouble, Shailer became depressed and was prescribed drugs to help her cope.

She used those along with cannabis and synthetic morphine. Haerewa would later reveal that his partner was also taking his schizophrenia medication.

They were also strained financially - but compared with earlier periods in their tumultuous relationship, they were "doing well".

In early 2015 Dally-Paki called Shailer, needing help.

Her eldest boy was sick in Starship Hospital. She needed someone to look after her two youngest for a few days.

Shailer, despite being ill-equipped mentally and financially to take on the responsibility, agreed.

Dally-Paki dropped her 8-year-old daughter and Moko, who was a few months shy of turning 4, off the next day.

Fifty nine days later, Moko was dead.