Mother jailed after baby's death

Last updated 17:06 03/02/2014

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A former Hamilton woman who admitted causing the death of her newborn baby after getting drunk and falling asleep while breastfeeding her has been jailed.

Ngapoura Jannessa Tuheke, 28, also lost her bid for permanent name suppression when she was sentenced in the Hamilton District Court this afternoon to 12 months' jail.

Tuheke's nine-week-old baby girl Octahffin Te Manaaki Hopa died on February 19, 2012 - just six days after she had been released from Waikato Hospital after suffering from injuries in a similar situation days earlier.

Tuheke, who now lives in the Tauranga area, had earlier admitted a charge of failing to provide the necessaries of life for her daughter by omitting to provide the child with a safe sleeping environment, therefore causing her death.

In the first incident, Tuheke arrived home drunk about 2.45am after leaving Octahffin in the care of her partner.

Walking into the bedroom she noticed a small mound under the blankets of her bed shaking.

Tuheke, who has three other children, pulled back the blanket to find her daughter hot, shaking and distressed.

Octahffin was taken to Waikato Hospital, where she stayed until February 13.

On Octahffin being discharged, Tuheke was given a Pepi-pod infant bed and information about keeping baby in a safe place to sleep.

However, on February 18 the victim, her partner and family went to a friend's housewarming party where Tuheke became drunk.

By the time Tuheke and her partner realised they had forgotten their Pepi-pod, they were too drunk to drive home and get it.

The baby was put to sleep in a bed in the house, but early in the morning, Tuheke grabbed her and put her into bed with her and her partner and their then-2-year-old child.

Tuheke then began breastfeeding her daughter, but fell asleep.

They slept for a few more hours.

Later, on two separate occasions, a family member and a friend noticed the baby appeared hungry and was crying and tried unsuccessfully to wake Tuheke.

At one stage the blanket had completely covered the baby.

As they couldn't wake Tuheke, and with the baby still crying, they put the baby back on Tuheke's breast to continue to feed as she slept.

However, about 4.55am, a friend walked past and noticed something wrong with the baby.

Tuheke and her partner were woken and CPR was carried out, but the baby was unresponsive.

St John Ambulance staff were also unable to resuscitate the baby.

An autopsy found the death was due to sudden unexpected death infancy (SUDI), which is associated with an unsafe sleep environment causing accidental asphyxia.

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Judge Barney Thomas told Tuheke today that she should have learnt lessons from the earlier close call.

"In other words, she [Octahffin] was in a bed that she shouldn't have been in and was effectively smothered. That was the very risk that you had been educated about.

"That accident ... almost cost her life a few days prior. That was the one thing that she should never have had to fear again after February 13."

Judge Thomas said either Tuheke or her partner should have stayed sober that night.

"Instead, you put her [Octahffin] on a bed so you could party on with everybody else."

- Waikato

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