The lonely grave of baby Jeanette Rikihana carries no loving message from a grieving family.

There is no headstone, just a weather-beaten wooden cross that does not even bear her name.

Two miniature toys, a pig and a fairy, sit behind a bunch of dead flowers, and a yellow ribbon adorns the cross.


Its simplicity beside the elaborate headstones on other children's graves in the Christchurch cemetery is a sorry reminder of a short life, ended by her teenage father Soulan Rikihana in October 1994.

Jeanette Rikihana was born in Rotorua in May 1994 but lived in Christchurch.

She was named for her father's mother, who had died almost two years before of cancer.

On the night of October 19, 1994, while her mother, Losalia Mulipola, was out getting takeaways, baby Jeanette was fatally injured.

An ambulance was called after her father ran next door to get help, saying he had found the baby in her cot not breathing. She died in hospital.

The death notice published days later said she was a "dearly loved daughter of her proud parents".

But a post-mortem revealed she had suffered horrendous injuries - severe bruising to the head, including a cracked skull, and internal bruising. Rikihana was arrested and charged with murder.

He later said he had accidentally dropped Jeanette in the shower, a story that changed during his trial, when he said she fell on to the wooden arm of a sofa.

A jury found him not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter and he was jailed.

When he emerged from prison, he took his mother's maiden name, Pownceby, and was paroled to live with Salvation Army boxing academy coach Paul Fitzsimons.

"He just walked in off the street and started training with me at Crichton Cobbers [a youth-focused gym]. I looked at him. I thought the guy needed a bit of a chance in life, a ratshit life he's had, so I took him in."

Mr Fitzsimons said Pownceby had not been in trouble for four years, since a string of four assault charges between 1998 and 2000.

He had turned Christian, becoming a Catholic. "I don't know why people want to crucify him," Mr Fitzsimons said.

The young boxer, known in Christchurch as the Soul Man, was a quick learner and after five years in the south moved to Auckland to further his career.

"He still comes back," said Mr Fitzsimons. "The boys here look up to him. He turned his life around from drugs and booze and gangs. He's awesome."

The coach will go to Athens to proudly "watch Soul win a gold medal".

"I'm like a dad to him. I've tried to help him in life and he always comes back to touch base, touch home.

"It's hard to focus with all this just eight weeks out from the Olympics.

"I think everyone should get behind him and give him a go."