By ANGELA GREGORY

Previous injuries and neglect of the baby killed by her Olympic boxer father Soulan Pownceby have been described as tragic evidence of the need to support young parents.

Parents Centres' chief executive Viv Gurrey said the sad fact was that all parents, especially teenage parents, needed to be supported and educated to break the cycles of violence that existed in too many homes.

She was commenting on a report yesterday that 5-month-old Jeanette Rikihana had suffered a severe chest injury just weeks before Pownceby, then aged 19, killed her.

An autopsy showed she had a cracked skull and head injuries so severe her brain had split, and that she had been seriously injured before.

The baby was healing from six fractured ribs caused by a chest injury at least two weeks before her death.

Evidence at Pownceby's trial in 1995 had described Jeanette as malnourished with wasting buttocks and thighs.

She weighed barely more than her 3kg birth weight and had scabies.

Pownceby, who had said he dropped the baby, was convicted of manslaughter and jailed for four years.

Mrs Gurrey was unimpressed with Pownceby's selection for the Olympics.

"Is it any wonder, as a nation with such an appalling record of violence toward children, that we have proclaimed the villain to be a hero?

"We have forgiven the unforgivable and declared justice to be done, despite an unconvincing attempt by Pownceby to turn a new leaf ...

"If Soulan Pownceby is to wear the mantle of hero, then he must use it wisely and use it to create an advantage for New Zealand's abused children.

"It is too late for tears and remorse."

Mrs Gurrey said Pownceby should work with violent offenders and break the cycle of violence.

The Sunday Star-Times also reported the court heard how Pownceby had "played around" with his daughter a few days before her death, shaving off her eyebrows.

Pathologist Martin Sage said in evidence the child's old and fresh rib fractures indicated she had been subjected to considerable, and painful, force. She also had deep bruising to her stomach.

He could not rule out that Jeanette's injuries were caused by an accident but said the constellation of recent head injuries, old rib fractures and recent rib fractures was almost always associated with non-accidental injury.

Herald Feature: Child Abuse

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