Without her babies, 'something just snapped'

20:11, Dec 13 2013
Sheryl Featombe
HEARTBROKEN: Sheryl Featombe talks about the death of her daughter, Oshon Wilson.

Something snapped inside teenage mother Oshon Wilson when the State said she would never care for a baby of her own.

The next day, the heavily pregnant 16-year-old swallowed 48 painkiller pills and a bottle of bourbon.

She found herself in hospital, screaming that she wanted to live.

Oshon and her baby survived that suicide attempt, but within the year she was dead.

Her grieving mother Sheryl Featonby, 52, tells her youngest child's story at the dining table of her modest family home in west Hamilton.

Name a job and Featonby's probably done it.


She now earns a wage slicing, packing and cleaning in the offal room at the Greenlea meat works off Kahikatea Dr.

She has a clean police record and memories of a hard life.

The thought of Oshon's story never being told drove her to speak publicly, and the hope that others might avoid the hole her family fell into.

Oshon was born at Waikato Hospital in 1996, the last of five children to three men.

She was a "placid" baby, but she grew into "a little deviant", Featonby says.

She was "always" getting into trouble sticking up for others.

Featonby recalls Oshon launching into a fight because she mistakenly thought her brother was getting beaten up.

Another time, a boy tripped a disabled girl over and Oshon "laid him out," she says, laughing.

But Oshon also learnt to "lie and twist things".

"It would be her way of telling you what you wanted to hear, but you knew she was b............ She never robbed or hurt anybody that didn't deserve it."

There were secrets too. Featonby had no idea about her daughter's drug use.

She took "pretty much anything she could get her hands on".

Yet Featonby says she hadn't touched any drugs until her kids were taken away from her.

Oshon gave birth to her first child, a girl, at 14. She continued with the pregnancy against her mother's advice - Featonby was a teenage mother too and wanted a better life for her daughter.

Life started to unravel when Oshon dropped the baby off at the young father's house, Featonby says.

Twenty minutes later, Oshon received a call saying the child had a lump on her head. Doctors at Waikato Hospital suspected a skull fracture.

The father denied responsibility, as did Oshon, Featonby says. However, hospital staff notified police as well as Child, Youth and Family.

At the time Oshon was staying with her gang-affiliated brother, Featonby's eldest, and their house backed onto the Outcasts pad.

There's longstanding bad blood between the motorcycle gang and Waikato police, particularly after Outcasts made threats of violence against officers in 2000.

Featonby says other things played against Oshon - an overheard conversation that mentioned cannabis being one - and a chain of events was set in motion.

The authorities blamed Oshon for the injury and her baby was taken, without her or her family's knowledge.

Featonby applied to become the child's guardian, she says, but she went to an aunty-in-law on the father's side.

Oshon fell into a depression.

She would never get her baby back and visitation was limited to once a week.

She became pregnant again pretty much straight away, Featonby says.

"God knows who the dad is. She thought if they were never going to let her have [the child], she would have another baby."

Eight months later, CYF staff told Oshon she would never be allowed to care for a child of her own again, Featonby says.

"I said to mum, 'Look at her, something just snapped in her'.

"And she said, 'oh, you think? I thought she was doing quite good'."

Featonby says Oshon raged at her, blaming her for the State taking her unborn child away.

The next day, she took the pills and the bourbon.

The baby survived and, on April 1, Oshon gave birth at home in the spa; four hours later, a security guard and a CYF worker arrived and took the newborn.

There's anger and sadness and desperation in Featonby as she lists the ups and downs of dealing with State services. CYF was offered the opportunity to comment for this story but preferred not to make any statement.

When she starts talking about the night in October when Oshon was found dead in her brother's Claudelands house, there's grief and hopelessness.

Police initially treated the situation as suspicious but eventually, a month later said they were not searching for anyone else in relation to Oshon's death. The matter is now before the coroner.

Oshon's funeral was held on November 2 at the Simplicity Trust Chapel and she was buried at Whatawhata Public Cemetery.

It was amazing who turned up, Featonby says. Among those there to hear the tributes were CYF staff.

At the service, Featonby spoke directly to Oshon.

"With all the s... the police and CYF put you through as they ripped your babies from you and knowing how much it was killing you every day, as your mother, I've seen you die a little every day for the past two years.

"As a promise to you, I and your family will see that your babies will know how much you loved them and what a beautiful, loving, caring human you were.

"We are so broken without you." 

Waikato Times