"I don't think I will ever get my little girl back . . . she won't trust anyone, she won't talk to anyone, she shuts herself in her room."
Those were the words of a distraught mother of one of five young girls sexually assaulted by Southland man Mark Joseph Eru Te Au.
A sickness beneficiary, Te Au, 45, was sentenced yesterday in the High Court in Invercargill to 12 years' jail, with a minimum non-parole term of six years.
He had earlier been found guilty of a total of 11 charges of sexual offending between 2001 and 2007, mostly in Invercargill, against five young girls.
One of the convictions was for rape.
Te Au can today be named, with his name suppression lifted by Justice Whata after the victims' families said they wanted him outed.
The mother of one of the girls, addressing the court, said Te Au was sick for what he had done and had shown no remorse.
"What he did has ruined my life and my daughter's life. I don't think I will ever get my little girl back - even with all the counselling in the world, she will never be the same again."
Her daughter had been carefree and "cruisy" before the offending but had since become an angry person who was physically violent, verbally abusive and would no longer allow boys into her room, her mother said.
Justice Whata outlined what impact Te Au's actions had on each of his victims, with each having different problems.
They ranged from acting violently to having feelings of depression, anger, guilt, fear and sadness to no longer trusting people, having issues with intimacy and turning to drugs.
Te Au's lawyer, Hugo Young, said his client continued to maintain his innocence.
He had no previous convictions for sexual offending, the court was told.
Justice Whata said Te Au's continued denials of sexual offending presented a significant barrier to him being treated.
After the sentencing, one of the police officers involved in the investigation also spoke out about the impact of the offending on the victims.
Acting Detective Sergeant Stu Harvey, of Invercargill, described the effects as devastating.
"In the end, 12 years is a good sentence, but I still think the effects on the victims are longer-lasting than that."
Generally, issues victims of sexual abuse developed could include trust and anger problems, he said.
"Sometimes if it's dealt with in the appropriate way at the time, a lot of those issues don't have the same long-term effects, but if they're not dealt with at the time they can have long-term effects on the victims - for the rest of their lives."
The impact on the girls' families was also significant, he said.
"Huge. Huge. To a certain extent . . . some of the families have just been broken to pieces in some ways."
The investigation into Te Au began in 2009 and took about a year.
Sexual abuse cases were particularly tough when dealing with young children, Mr Harvey said.
"[Going to trial] that in itself is traumatic, let alone for a child . . . it was a difficult, difficult investigation, that whole process from the investigation through to getting the matter to trial, through the trial - it was a pretty difficult process, really."
- The Southland Times