'Bashed for being transgender' - family

KATHRYN KING
Last updated 13:15 23/06/2014

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A transgender woman seriously injured in a late night attack in Palmerston North will likely require facial reconstruction.

Anahera Rangitaawa, 33, also known as Angel, was found lying on the ground near the entrance to the Copthorne Hotel, on the corner of Fitzherbert Ave and Ferguson St, between midnight and 1am on Saturday.

She remains in a serious condition in intensive care in Wellington Hospital today.

Rangitawaa's family believe her gender identity was at the heart of a late night attack, which they believe could not have been a robbery because she was not carrying her purse at the time, family member Scott Engebretsen said today.

Speaking from Wellington Hospital, Engebretsen said physically, Angel's face looked severely swollen with a small graze, belying extensive internal injuries.

She had suffered multiple fractures, including her shoulder blade, cheekbones and sides of her skull, and her eye sockets were ''smashed''.

One of her eyes may be permanently damaged.

She was in a stable condition, and was no longer in an induced coma, but had not woken up, he said.

He anticipated she would spend another two weeks in Wellington Hospital before returning to Palmerston North, and would likely  require facial reconstruction surgery.

Her family were by her side and they were grateful for the ''overflowing'' amount of support they had received, Engebretsen said.

Detective Johnny Oram said this morning a scene examination has been completed and officers were continuing to make inquiries.

''Over the next few days we will be speaking to local business owners as well as reviewing CCTV footage in the area which will hopefully give us a clearer picture of how the victim has sustained their injuries''.

Oram said the injuries were unexplained, and it would be "premature" to speculate on how and why they were received. 

Yesterday, Rangitaawa's aunt, Esther Topfer, took to Facebook to ask for people's prayers for her niece, whom she called a "loving, happy young woman".

She said Rangitaawa was transgender, and "has been since the day she was born", and her aunt believed that was the motivation behind the attack.

Three unidentified men were behind it, she wrote.

"I am saddened and appalled that in the 21st century ignorant, judgmental and evil people can smash a person to within an inch of their life for ... being who they are! Please. I ask of you, take a minute to send her loving light." 

A woman, who did not want her name published, said she was at the same quilting exhibition as Rangitaawa, at The Square Edge, earlier on Saturday night.

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Rangitaawa was from Auckland and had been in Palmerston North visiting family, she said. 

She described her as "a beautiful woman", and said her attack had caused concern in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

"We think Palmerston North is safe and it's small, and like a little home town, and yet this beautiful woman has come in from outside of town, she's clearly transgendered ... Of course it was because she's transgendered, of course it was." 

The woman said she knew of another transgender woman who had been beaten in The Square in Palmerston North in the past six months.

"There's no doubt it was about her transgender, why else would anybody beat her within an inch of her life?" 

Anyone who saw something happening around the intersection of Fitzherbert Ave and Ferguson St between midnight and 1am on Saturday, is asked to call Palmerston North police on 351 3600.

- Manawatu Standard

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