Thieves spoil Hamilton family's special day

JENNA LYNCH
Last updated 05:00 10/12/2013
Rihia-Neumann
MARK TAYLOR

HEARTBROKEN: The Neumann family were in the Waikato Hospital having a baby when burglars cleaned out their home. From left: Joshua Neumann and Peter Rihia-Neumann , front Desman Rihia and baby TJ Rihia-Neumann, Jay, Dee, and Rahiri Rihia-Neumann.

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It was supposed to be the happiest day of the year. Little baby TJ had just entered the world and his family was ecstatic.

Unfortunately, the happiness was short-lived.

When TJ's father, Joshua Neumann, returned to their Hamilton home from the hospital last month, he found his place ransacked. Thieves had jemmied a window and cleaned them out.

They took everything - the new flat-screen TV, the Playstation 3, even the meat in the freezer.

But the most heartbreaking thing they did was to swipe the Christmas gifts for the four other children.

Neumann and his partner, Desma Rihia, had been collecting presents throughout the year.

Everything from Playstation games for their teenage boys to cute little outfits for their 2-year-old girl was hidden away in a wardrobe so that everything was a surprise come Christmas morning.

"I just can't afford to do it all in one hit," he explained.

"That's why I save up during the year, to make sure they don't have a sad Christmas."

Now, there is no Christmas spirit in their home. No Christmas tree, no twinkling lights, no mistletoe.

Instead, the family will be scraping everything together just to make sure the children have something to open on Christmas.

"We might just have to go to the $2 shop or something. I dunno," Neumann said.

And with the new baby around and five mouths to feed, even that will be a bit of a struggle.

But it wasn't the gifts that hurt the most. The thieves also took off with family heirlooms, like Rihia's late father's shepherd's whistle, an iPad full of family photos and videos, and worst of all - the children's pounamu.

"It's the sentimental stuff that hurts the most. The other stuff can be replaced.

"We can always work hard and save up for a new Playstation and a new TV, but not that other stuff. We can't get back her dad's stuff. It's irreplaceable."

Their neighbours may have seen the thieves too - they noticed a couple of guys down the driveway and had a yarn with them.

But the police did not talk to the neighbours about a description when they showed up four days later.

From his neighbours' description, Neumann believes the offenders were Maori and hopes they understand the significance of the pounamu.

"That's tapu, you know? If they bring it back - no questions asked. I'm not gonna go to the police."

Neumann did not have much he wanted to say to the thieves. Bring back his stuff, he guessed.

"Oh, and have a merry Christmas I suppose."

"They'll have a merry Christmas," Rihia said.

* If you want to help the family or find out how you can help, please email news@waikatotimes.co.nz

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