A Whanganui man who killed one of his triplet daughters was under stress, but had plenty of family support he could have asked for, a judge has said this morning.
But Thomas Tamatea Ariki Nui McGregor had the sole care of the triplets, two of them fast asleep, for less than an hour before he picked up baby Hinekawa. He swung or threw her against a wall, the floor, or some other hard object.
In the High Court in Wanganui today Justice Ron Young said nothing in McGregor's background explained what had happened.
Hinekawa was two months old, but had been born with her two sisters two months premature so she was just reaching birth weight when she died.
McGregor, 31, was sentenced to life imprisonment and has to serve at least 17 years before he can be considered for parole. He pleaded guilty to a charge of murdering Hinekawa and wounding another baby, who cannot be identified for legal reasons.
McGregor would no doubt carry the scars of what what had happened for the rest of his life, and so he should, the judge said.
When the babies were first out of hospital, McGregor, his partner, Tiffany Topia, and the babies lived with McGregor's parents in Waitotara, before moving to a house in Whanganui where Topia's 5-year-old son joined them.
A court summary of what happened to baby Hinekawa said that for several days leading up to Hinekawa's death on January 12, 2012, she was in the care of her grandmother and other relatives. She had been well and uninjured.
McGregor was alone with the other two babies when Hinekawa was brought home. He texted Topia "urging" her to come home.
Within about 45 minutes he had gone to Hinekawa's cot, and swung or thrown her against a wall, the floor, or some other object, fracturing her skull and causing bleeding within her brain.
The court summary said she became lifeless immediately and McGregor tried CPR to revive her.
He texted Topia telling her to come home "now" because something was wrong with Hinekawa. He sent another text two minutes later saying that she had stopped breathing.
Topia came home and both parents took Hinekawa to hospital but she could not be saved.
At the hospital McGregor told staff he had found Hinekawa in her cot, limp, blue and not breathing.
When police first interviewed McGregor they told him Hinekawa's skull was fractured. McGregor said he had found Hinekawa not breathing and when she was put in the car to be taken to hospital he closed the car door hard and it had hit her head.
Later he was to tell relatives, and then police, that when he first found Hinekawa not breathing he had carried her to the kitchen and, panicking, accidentally hit her head on a doorframe and then dropped her on the floor.
However, in earlier incidents another baby, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was injured in his care at least four times in three weeks. That baby was found to have multiple areas of bleeding within her brain.
According to the court summary a doctor said it was the sort of injury caused by car accidents, significant falls, or child abuse such as violent shaking. She had either been shaken or her head was caused to contact a soft surface that quickly stopped her head from moving.
Prosecutor Lance Rowe told the court that it seemed that baby had made a full recovery and was developing normally.
In a statement, Hinekawa's family said: "The life of our Hinekawa has been taken away and this will continue to affect us for the rest of our lives. Every time we look at the girls we are reminded that we have one living with the angels in heaven."