Another child has been bashed to death in a bleak 'family' home. CARROLL DU CHATEAU chronicles the brutal end of Tangaroa Matiu and looks into the ugly depths of a growing underclass.

On Wednesday, January 12, Tangaroa Matiu did not jump out of bed like most 3-year-olds. After his hiding the night before, he was probably aching. Certainly he was terrified.

Only when his de facto stepfather, Genesis Mahanga, called did he limp to the toilet, desperately trying to hide the fact that he had messed his pants.

Minutes later, while he was frantically cleaning his faeces from the toilet seat, the short but powerful Mahanga spotted him.


As Mahanga would tell the police later, he was mad, ropeable. "There was kaka - shit - all over his pants, all over the toilet ... I told him he was really going to get it this time."

Mahanga meant it. After a few slaps to Tangaroa's head, he grabbed one of his favourite weapons, the orange plastic toilet brush. Seizing it by the brush end, he whipped Tangaroa so hard that the tough plastic curled round his thin legs.

"He got me angry, that's when I started hitting him. 'You shouldn't kaka your pants, you naughty little boy'."

While the child cowered on the toilet, Mahanga padded to the bedroom he shared with Tangaroa's mother, Hoana Matiu, for the white-painted four-by-two-inch veranda paling he had used on Tangaroa three days before.

The sight brought fresh terror - "I told him he was really going to get it. That's when he started crying more."

The pathologist's evidence would show that over the next 20-odd minutes Mahanga hit the child around 100 times. Favourite spots were places that hurt terribly but would not kill - feet, hands, back, knees, shoulders, scrotum - until he miscalculated and whacked Tangaroa's head so hard that blood spattered the toilet walls.

When the child's bottom slipped into the toilet, Mahanga hauled him out and hit him again. When the boy's mother came down the hall, far from saving him, she slapped him a couple of times too, then stepped back to let her boyfriend carry on. Only once did she say, "That's enough."

Next Mahanga lifted Tangaroa out of the toilet and carried him by the scruff of the neck to the shower.

"That's when I gave him a whack on the bum with the wood. 'Naughty boy'."

And Tangaroa, who had been systematically beaten and tortured for months, lay moaning in the empty bath, in his own blood and faeces, and started to die.

"I got him up and tried cleaning him and he fell down again," said Mahanga. "He was still saying, 'Aahh, aahh.' I cleaned up the kaka and took him straight to his room."

Since Tangaroa crawled from bed, it had all taken around 30 minutes.

Over the next hour and a half, Mahanga attempted to dress the boy's wound with sticky tape, forced sugary water down his throat until he vomited, listened to his raspy breathing and watched him bleed to death.

He refused to get medical help.

When Tangaroa stopped breathing, Mahanga, a confident first aid graduate, attempted CPR.

Throughout Tangaroa's ordeal, his mother mostly kept away. While her son was beaten in the bathroom, she cleaned his blood and faeces off the toilet. As he lay fighting for breath, she sent his 8-year-old brother, Kyden, for the washing.

In all, she checked on Tangaroa three times.

Only when she could see that Mahanga's efforts at CPR were not working did she drive to the phone box to call an ambulance.

The death of Tangaroa Matiu is a glimpse into an ugly underbelly of urban life.

This is a world where girls get pregnant at 15 and hand their babies over to their parents. Where, by their 30s, many have several children by a series of men and move between rented houses with a restlessness born of shattered lives. Where one of the biggest drawcards for a man is a woman's domestic purposes benefit. Where almost everyone has clumsy blue tattoos - the badge of jail or the streets - on their hands. Where tough brutal childhoods are routine. And where abuse breeds in the shadows.

Tangaroa Matiu died at 36 Brougham Place, Massey, a Hardyplank house down a right-of-way in a small development at the tip of the Northwestern Motorway.

The local school is shabby, dilapidated. Police cruise the streets, kids wave at strange cars. While five minutes up the hill people lead the good life in smart homes with addresses such as Picasso Place, down where Tangaroa and Kyden lived life is impossibly grim.

It was not always this way for Tangaroa. Hoana Matiu's fourth child by a third father, he was her signal to get away from violence that had started in Ahipara, on Ninety-Mile Beach, when her mother knocked her baby teeth out.

By age 13, Hoana, or "Missy," third of six children, was drinking heavily and regularly running away from home.

A year later she gave birth to John, who was taken by her parents. Next came Julie-Ann - this time to Mongrel Mob member Michael Paerau, who knocked out Hoana Matiu's second teeth, pulled knives on her and shot her in the thigh.

After eight years, two children, 20-odd breakups and spells with Paerau on a coastal trader, that relationship ended too. Paerau was granted custody of their children, Julie-Ann and Kyden, and soon Matiu had a new baby, Tangaroa, from a short affair.

Tangaroa was special, according to his mother.

By 1999, her own parents had separated and she moved into a house in Larnach Rd, Henderson, with her sister Glenys, her father, John, Julie-Ann and Kyden (whom she had "got back" from their father) and Tangaroa. She had a job at Tegel in Henderson and was studying business administration in New Lynn.

By now she also knew Moengarau De Veas and her brother, Genesis Mahanga. Although he was fresh out of prison, Mahanga seemed to offer a chance of a serious relationship.

Within a month, he and Matiu had shifted to Te Henga Rd with her father and the boys (Julie-Ann moved to Wanganui with her aunt Glenys).

But about five months later, in August, despite an incident when Mahanga rubbed Tangaroa's face into a raw seeping wound with a wet towel, she went with Mahanga to a new house in Brougham Place, nearer Moengarau, while her father went flatting. Says her father: "He [Mahanga] had a thing about our family.

"He said, 'Get out of my place you Matius - it's in my name'."

His message on the answerphone: "Never to ring here. You f'ing Matius are a pack of mongrels."

And the hell began. On the old heater, dubbed the "naughty seat," Tangaroa was made to sit while Mahanga drew his knuckle down so hard over his forehead that his eyes went black; hidings in his sister's laundry where the child would emerge, nose bleeding and bruised, leaving handfuls of hair on the floor. And no one came to his rescue.

Says De Veas, who brought her own beautifully dressed children to court: "It's her kid. She should get off her fat bum and discipline him. He was a really naughty boy."

This about a woman who she also said pinched Tangaroa's cheek until it bled and hit him with a saw-toothed egg flipper.

The family became increasingly isolated. Visitors were warned off, there was no phone - family visits, even to De Veas' house, ceased.

Mahanga took over the "discipline" of the boys, becoming obsessed with Tangaroa's toilet training. The brothers were separated, kept in their rooms, banned from playing with their toys. Tangaroa was forced to stand for hours, face to the wall.

His mother claimed at the trial that she was not even allowed in his room. "Genesis said I wasn't tough enough, that I was always trying to save my boys' arses."

When the police examined the house, they found blood smears in nearly every room. While most of it was Tangaroa's, some was from Kyden.

On the afternoon the police arrived to search the house, there were three bloodied sheets and pillowcases in the laundry bucket - plus the blood-soaked bed where Tangaroa died.

Said Peter Evans, of the Henderson police child abuse team: "This is one of the most savage beatings of a young child I've ever seen."

Pathologist Dr Timothy Koelmeyer detailed "a minimum of 300 bruises" on Tangaroa's small body when he died, inflicted over weeks.

It was not just the head wound that killed him, it was the blood from his battered arms and legs which collected in his soft tissue and was lost to his circulatory system.

Almost worse was the psychological hiding that the little boy suffered, shut in his room, waiting for his torturer to arrive.

By the time they were in Brougham Place, neither Tangaroa nor Kyden screamed any more. They knew from experience that it would mean more violence - and that no one would come.

For once, this was not a systems failure. Doctors, police, Children, Young Persons and their Families Service were strenuously avoided, not just by Mahanga, but by Hoana Matiu too.

Back in August, when Matiu was driven to Wai Health (Waipareira Trust health service) after being pulled up by Constable Kylie Newton to have Tangaroa's raw and weeping face and hideously swollen tongue treated, she instead put a hood over his head, called De Veas to pick them up and left. Why? "I felt scared. If this was seen by a doctor, I'd be letting Genesis down."

Only the Corrections Department had contact. Throughout the abuse, Mahanga attended Straight Thinking - a $7.1 million course designed to teach social skills including apologising and negotiating rather than ... acting aggressively. Presumably - the service refuses to comment - his tutors were satisfied with his progress.

Throughout the trial, while Matiu - - who pleaded battered woman's syndrome - cried intermittently, Mahanga sat implacable in his dark suit, bottom lip loose, staring straight ahead, slumping in the dock.

Only his lawyer, Marie Dyhrberg, gets a smile: "D'you think I look all right? Not too formal?"

"No, Genesis, you look great, you're doing really well'."

Hoana Matiu's three remaining children now live with her sister Vanessa and her four children in Kaitaia.