A man who repeatedly hit his seven-year-old stepson with a cricket wicket and threw him against a wall of their Nelson home because he left his jumper at school has been sentenced to life imprisonment for the boy's "callous" murder.
Johnny Pukerua Joachim, 37, was ordered to serve a non parole period of 18 years, in the High Court at Nelson today, for killing Duwayne Toetu Taote Pailegutu.
The boy's natural father sat in the back of the courtroom watching as his son's killer was sentenced.
Justice Dobson said that on June 24, Joachim picked Duwayne up from school and brought him home, angry that he had left a jumper there.
Joachim submitted Duwayne to a "vicious and sustained attack", beating him around the arms, head, and upper body.
He used a cricket wicket, hitting his arms and feet, and also kicked him, Justice Dobson said.
In the following days Joachim attempted to treat the boy himself, but inflicted further serious harm.
His "selfish refusal" to seek medical assistance over the eight days between the assault and Duwayne's death on July 2, was this morning described as "callous" by Justice Dobson.
He said Duwayne had suffered 75 external injuries from the assaults, and scalds from where Joachim had tried to shock him with cold and then hot water.
Justice Dobson described Joachim's offending as at the worst end of the scale but said Joachim co-operated fully with the police and entered an early guilty plea.
He said victim impact statements from Duwayne's natural father and grandmother showed that his death had been a "huge loss" to the family.
Duwayne had been a student at Nayland Primary School and lived in a Housing NZ unit on Fergusson St with Joachim and his mother Mary Joachim. The family had moved to Nelson from Auckland at the end of last year.
Duwayne's natural father, Rolly Pailegutu, travelled to Nelson from Auckland with his brother for today's sentencing, but did not want to comment on the sentence this morning.
He told the Nelson Mail yesterday of his shock at learning of his eldest son's murder.
"I just froze. I was in shock. Then they told me what had happened to him and I couldn't believe it."
Mr Pailegutu had not seen his son for more than a year and had believed that the Joachim family had left the country. He had never met Duwayne's stepfather.
Mr Pailegutu said his mother had urged him to put thoughts of what happened to Duwayne out of his mind to stop the hurt, and he said he hoped to be able to do this after the sentencing.
Despite the tragedy of Duwayne's death, Mr Pailegutu yesterday said he was still able to recall happy memories of his son, who had made everybody laughed and loved to play.
Justice Dobson ordered that all details of the case, other than those he had to referred to in court this morning, be suppressed.
He made the order clear to media in court, and also extended it to any other people "minded to publish" information in any form.
He ordered that the police files and pathologist's report into Duwayne's death not to be searched.
Duwayne's mother, Mary Joachim, has been charged with failing to provide the necessities of life, and is due to appear in the Nelson District Court for a depositions hearing on November 27.
Nelson Tasman Te Rito Family Violence coordinator Gayle Helm was in court to hear the sentencing and said afterwards the message had to get out to the community to stop violence.
To protect children like Dwayne Pailegutu, suspected family violence had to be reported because children deserved to be safe in their home, she said.
She said Joachim's sentence reflected the severity of the case.
A Nelson mother and her 17-year-old daughter also came to hear the sentencing because they were horrified at what had happened.
The mother, who did not want to be named, said, "Good job" to the 18-year non-parole imprisonment sentence.
"He deserved everything he got. I feel sorry for the dad who had to sit there and listen to what happened to his son," she said.
- The Nelson Mail