Court hears of bite marks found on dead toddler Matiu Wereta

Tamehana Huata, accused of killing two-year-old Matiu Wereta, appearing in the High Court at Napier.
JOHN COWPLAND

Tamehana Huata, accused of killing two-year-old Matiu Wereta, appearing in the High Court at Napier.

A teenager looking after his partner's toddler killed the two-year-old boy and then claimed he had an accident in a shower, a court has heard.

Crown lawyer Steve Manning opened the trial of Tamehana Huata, 19, by telling the jury that Matiu Wereta 'MJ' was found to be covered in bruises and cuts after an ambulance was called to his Flaxmere house in October, 2015.

​Huata is on trial in the High Court at Napier for manslaughter and injuring with intent to injure.

Hastings toddler Matiu Wereta died in October, 2015.
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Hastings toddler Matiu Wereta died in October, 2015.

The Crown alleges Huata assaulted Matiu at their home in Columbus Cres, Flaxmere, on the morning of October 12. He died two days later in Hawke's Bay Hospital.

READ MORE:
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Manning told the jury they would hear that Matiu died of a massive head injury caused by some form of blunt force trauma.

Matiu Wereta.
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Matiu Wereta.

He said the Crown case was that the assault or assaults on Matiu were caused by Huata, who was alone in the house with Matiu on the morning of October 12. 

At the time of his death Matiu was found to have multiple bruises and abrasions to his face and other parts of his body, including three bite marks.

Manning said the nature of the injuries was such that they could not have been caused by accident. Medical experts will tell the jury the head injury was similar to one suffered in a car accident.

Manning said there were only two possible scenarios; that Matiu's injuries: that he was assaulted by Huata or he had fallen over on his own causing significant head injury.

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He said the Crown's case was that Huata "lost his temper and lashed out with force". 

"Good people can and do bad things in the heat of the moment when they lose control," Manning said.

Huata had claimed variously that Matiu had run into the shower door, that he had fallen in the shower, and that he had "donged" his head on a wall.

He said that after finding Matiu unconscious he dried him, put on a nappy, and a onesie.

Manning said Matiu's mother mother Eranna Tiopira was and remains Huata's partner. She became pregnant with Matiu just prior to leaving high school. Matiu's father lived with them until Matiu was one. His father, also named Matiu, went to Australia and in mid-2015 Tiopari began a relationship with Huata, who was 17 at the time. The pair moved into a small three bedroom house in Flaxmere.

Manning said Huata came to Hawke's Bay from Rotorua to attend a Maori performing arts course. He met Eranna, who shared an interest in kapa haka, and he played an active role in Matiu's life. He would play with Matiu, change him and pick him up and drop him off at a daycare centre.

Manning said Matiu was an otherwise healthy and happy child. The night before he was injured his mother changed his nappy and did not notice any bruising or abrasions or anything physically out of the ordinary. 

Eranna went to work at 9.15am. Huata and Matiu both had colds so stayed at home. When Eranna left to work Matiu was sitting in bed watching TV, happy and healthy apart from his cold.

Huata and Eranna text messaged each other over the morning. Huata said they were watching cartoons and that Huata was coughing. Eranna arranged for them to see a doctor at 2pm.

At 10.15am Huata sent a text to say he and Matiu were having a shower. Two minutes later he sent a text to confirm he and Matiu would go to the doctor's appointment. 

At 10.51am Huata called Eranna. He was yelling, crying and distressed, telling Eranna that Matiu was unconscious and he needed her help.

Eranna came home within minutes and found Matiu unconscious on a bed, dressed in a onesie, with a small cut on his mouth. The pair called an ambulance and Matiu was taken to hospital.

Huata's lawyer Russell Fairbrother, QC, said the defence case was that Matiu had a "freakish accident".

He said experts disagreed as to how the alleged bit marks were caused, and that they were not bite marks at all.

Fairbrother said "not one neighbour heard a sound of a child being tortured or attacked".

He said Huata was a good man with no history of violence or bad behaviour, and he loved Matiu.

"No-one knows what happened to the child and no-one knows what caused that blunt force trauma injury," he said.

The trial before justice Susan Thomas is expected to last two weeks.

 - Stuff

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