Matiu Wereta named as dead Hawke's Bay toddler in assault case

Matiu Wereta, the Hastings toddler who died on Wednesday.
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Matiu Wereta, the Hastings toddler who died on Wednesday.

Police have named the 2½-year-old boy who died after an alleged assault in Hastings.

Matiu Wereta died on Wednesday evening in the intensive care unit at Hawke's Bay Hospital after allegedly being assaulted at his home in Columbus Cres, Flaxmere, on Monday.

A 17-year-old male has been charged with assault and appeared in the Hastings District Court on Tuesday. He was remanded to a Rotorua address on bail to reappear next month and was granted interim name suppression.

Matiu Wereta with mum Eranna Tiopira.
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Matiu Wereta with mum Eranna Tiopira.

A family statement said: "This is a very difficult time for us as we go through the grieving process and take in the events of the past few days.

"We have a very supportive whanau around us and are being supported by our local community."

It described Matiu as "a happy, smiley, adventurous boy who loved being active and getting involved in a lot of activities", including kapa haka.

He attended Te Tirahou daycare at Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga. "He loved to sing, dance and play with all his friends and teachers.  He touched many hearts with his cheeky smile and warm heart, and will be sadly missed by all his whanau and friends.

"We appreciate all the kind wishes and support we have been offered from many people. This is a tragic event that is extremely hard for any family to comprehend or experience.  We must now wait for the judicial process to take its course."

A post on mother Eranna Tiopira's Facebook page, at the end of last month, included a photo of Matiu and the words: "No one else will never understand the strength of my love for you my darling boy!

"After all, you are the only one who knows what my heart sounds like from the inside. I promise to always protect you and love you with all me heart son. I got your back!!"

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Residents of Columbus Cres said Matiu and his mother were new to the neighbourhood and kept to themselves. 

Tiopira works locally and the general manager at the organisation where she is employed said their hearts went out to the family and they were doing all they could to support her.

An uncle of the accused man said on Thursday that Matiu died as the result of an accident.

He said his nephew told him he had been having a shower with Matiu when the boy ran out of the shower and fell down a set of stairs.

He was confident the police investigation would conclude the death had been an accident.

"It's a traumatic experience for our families. It's a shock. No-one expects accidents to happen to children, and it's certainly affected everyone involved and certainly our family is grieving for what's happened," he said.

The mother of the accused declined to comment.

Flaxmere community leader and Hastings district councillor Henare O'Keefe said he knew the families involved and the community was rallying around them.

He understood Matiu's biological father was living in Australia but had returned home.

"In situations like this you just run out of cliches. You get anger and frustration and utu and revenge. All of those feelings. You can understand how people feel that way," he said.

"We'll do all that we can to support the family. To date we've stood back while they've been in intensive care.

"I don't know what the solution is, but I know what people should be doing now. Go back to their families and give them a hug, tell them you love them.

"I would say to people don't give up on Flaxmere," O'Keefe said.

 - Stuff

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