Sisters 'desecrate' toddler's grave

Last updated 05:00 12/01/2014
Two-year-old Jazmhyn Leiataua’s headstone
DESECRATED: Two-year-old Jazmhyn Leiataua’s headstone was allegedly kicked over and found in flax bushes.

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The family of an Auckland toddler killed in a driveway tragedy have been left sickened after relatives were charged with intentionally damaging the child's gravestone.

Alisa Taualofa, 27, and her sister, Faaleilei Taualofa, 22, were jointly charged with damaging the gravestone in June 2013.

The pair, who appeared in the Manukau District Court this week, were remanded on bail and are expected to enter a plea at their next appearance later this month.

The gravestone, which had to be refurbished, sits on top of the grave of 2-year-old Jazmhyn Leiataua - the daughter of the Taualofas' cousin Juliana Henry.

The toddler was crushed under the family car in a Mangere driveway shortly before Christmas 2010 after her 5-year-old brother released the handbrake.

Henry was cleaning out the back of the car boot at the time and tried desperately to stop it from rolling down her home's steep driveway. She suffered critical injuries, including a broken pelvis, collapsed lung, torn liver and fractured ribs.

The toddler died in hospital a few days later, and now, the incident has brought back the painful memories of the child's death.

Henry, who has four other children with her partner, said the thought of her cousins allegedly damaging the gravestone sickened her and she was left clueless as to why it happened in the first place.

In July last year Henry received a Facebook message, created under a pseudonym, in which the person bragged about a group of people stealing the headstone and defecating on it.

Henry's partner went to inspect the grave and reported the incident to police. She then started pleading with the person hiding behind the Facebook profile to tell her where the headstone was.

"[Police] found the headstone in the bushes only because I received a message saying it's in the flax bush," said Henry.

"It's not far from where she's buried. They just kicked it off and the thought of them kicking my daughter's face, her photo is cracked, really pisses me off."

Henry said she wants those responsible to reimburse the family for the $780 they needed to gather for a replacement gravestone while the original was being refurbished. She also wants those responsible to get "serious rehab or counselling".

"Me and my partner have been through too much, too much and we've come out of it together with our children and with the support of our family and friends," she said.

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She has also been left feeling ashamed that family members have been accused of damaging the gravestone.

"It makes me angry but I have a very forgiving heart and a lot of patience."

- Sunday Star Times

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