'Ploy to frame neighbours' behind desecration

Last updated 11:56 06/03/2014

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A bizarre ploy to frame some neighbours was behind a South Auckland woman desecrating her 2-year-old relative's grave, a court has heard.

Alisa Taualofa, 28, was sentenced in the Manukau District Court yesterday to 18 months' intensive supervision after previously admitting a charge of intentional damage.

The gravestone, which had to be refurbished, marked the grave of Jazmhyn Leiataua - the daughter of Taualofa's cousin, Juliana Henry.

Originally, Henry said she was angry and experienced "a deep feeling of loss all over again", but last month she and her partner attended a restorative justice conference with the offender, which allowed her to forgive.

"You're family and I don't turn my back on family," Henry said.

Jazmhyn 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 car boot and tried desperately to stop the car from rolling down her home's steep driveway.

Jazmhyn suffered critical injuries, including a broken pelvis, collapsed lung, torn liver and fractured ribs.

She died in hospital a few days later.

In June 2012, Henry found handwritten letters on her daughter's grave saying it would be damaged. Nothing happened until nearly a year later when she and her partner started getting threatening messages from an unknown person on Facebook.

One message said the gravestone had been stolen and defecated upon and when her partner went to check, it was was missing.

They reported the incident to police who eventually found it in some nearby flax bushes and tracked down the unlikely culprit through Facebook.

When questioned, Taualofa admitted the offending and claimed she had done it to set up some boys in their neighbourhood.

"It wasn't a one-off, quick decision," Judge John Bergseng said.

"It was something you planned and went to quite some trouble to effect.

"It raises some issues about what was going on in your life and what you were thinking when undertaking this behaviour."

As a result he ordered Taualofa - who had a baby in December - to undertake psychological assessments as well as ruling she pay reparation of $780.

She lost her job at Mitre 10 because of the conviction and would repay her debt at $50 a week starting next month when she went back on the benefit.

Her sister, Faaleilei, had also been charged with intentional damage but police indicated that would be withdrawn.

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