Conviction sticks for toddler killer

CONVICTION REMAINS: Patricia Pickering failed to have her murder conviction overturned, after she was jailed in 2010 for killing her three-year-old adopted son.
CONVICTION REMAINS: Patricia Pickering failed to have her murder conviction overturned, after she was jailed in 2010 for killing her three-year-old adopted son.

An Auckland woman jailed for life for killing her adopted son has failed to get her conviction overturned.

Patricia Angela Pickering was convicted in 2010 of murdering three-year-old Dylan Rimoni and sentenced to life in prison, with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years.

Dylan was admitted to Auckland's Starship Children's Hospital with head injuries on April 16, 2008, and died two days later. 

An autopsy revealed he had suffered extensive brain damage.

In March this year, Pickering challenged her conviction at the Court of Appeal.

Pickering faced three trials over Dylan's death, with the first two ending when jurors were discharged for various reasons.

Three of Pickering's nine grounds for appeal centred on the earlier trials, and the actions of the judge or prosecutor. Other points included a challenge to the evidence from an expert witness, a claim the judge's summing up had contained errors, a claim police officers had been guilty of misconduct in interviewing witnesses, and that the prosecutor had been guilty of misconduct in the course of his closing address.

Pickering also asked the court for leave to produce new evidence from medical experts.

In its recently released ruling, the appeals court rejected all Pickering's grounds for appeal, and also refused her bid to introduce new evidence.

During Pickering's sentencing Justice Edwin Wylie said it was clear Dylan was vulnerable as he was a defenceless child. It was impossible to imagine a more serious breach of trust, he said. 

"There was a high level of brutality and cruelty. There was evidence which suggested that significant force would have been required to cause the fatal injury," Justice Wylie said. 

Pickering's probation report said she had a propensity to use violence. She displayed no sadness or empathy after his death and continued to deny the offending. 

The Crown said Dylan had been beaten for a long period, and the brain damage that killed him was the result of his head being slammed against a hard surface. 

Crown prosecutor Phil Hamlin pointed out the aggravating features of Pickering's use of violence. "He's clearly been assaulted in a violent fashion. The extent of harm is obvious. 

"She was his adoptive mother. He was dependent on her for his daily well-being and he suffered at her hands. The level of brutality on this child was unusually high." 

Pickering's lawyer Frank Hogan said that at all times when Dylan was in Pickering's care, from late March 2007 until his death in April 2008, she loved him fully and dearly. 

"At no time did Patricia Pickering ever assault or harm Dylan." 

The defence had argued the boy suffered his head injuries when he fell from a trampoline. 

The court was told that Dylan had had an unhappy childhood. His birth mother, Jasmine Tonga, was unable to provide appropriate care, and he was looked after by his biological grandmother Sonya Joseph and uncle Matthew Ryan, until Pickering and her partner, Douglas Hoeta, became his caregivers in March 2007.

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