Grandmother 'screamed and yelled' for Moko, inquest hears
The grandmother of Moko Rangitoheriri says she "screamed and yelled" for help for the three-year-old before his death but felt like she wasn't heard.
The testimony was given during an at-times emotional inquest in Rotorua which coroner Wallace Bain said made the country's previous worst child abuse case, that of Nia Glassie, look like "kindergarten" compared to the "campaign of violence" inflicted on Moko.
"We thought then nothing could get as bad," Bain said.
"It appears Nia Glassie, what she went through, was kindergarten to what we have just read out."
Moko's killers, David Haerewa and Tania Shailer, have both been sentenced to 17 years' imprisonment for beating Moko to death.
Bain suggested strengthening Plunket and bringing back mandatory checks could be an answer to root out child abuse.
"One of the issues raised in the Nia Glassie case is there was no checking up of children," he said. "They could be anywhere. If there were checks a lot of these cases would be picked up. Compulsory checks will go a long way to making sure this doesn't occur."
Bain also mooted the idea of an 0800 number to report child abuse and to have people on the other end to respond to allegations.
Nicola Rangitoheriri, Moko's grandmother, delivered a powerful address through tears. She said she had rung the children's lawyer to get help and was told he would call her back.
"True to his word he contacted me alright...he called to ask how I got on with my mokos. I was so angry. I told him my grandson was dead and we were on our way to Taupo. His reply was he didn't know he was sorry to hear that."
Rangitoheriri said she had contacted many departments to try and bring her grandchilden into her care but had got nowhere.
"To the Government departments and their support people involved before the passing of my grandson, step up when whanau like myself have concerns. It takes a lot for us to speak out."
"I screamed and yelled but no one heard or helped me. My Moko screamed and yelled but no-one heard him:"
Rangitoheriri said her family had been judged harshly by what occurred. She said she took it on the chin and it hasn't changed who she is, but it has changed how she thinks. She appealed for people to "leave the gang life" as it's not a suitable environment to raise children.
Earlier, her daughter, Moko's mother Nicola Dally-Paki, had told how she had left her two children with Shailer after she had to go to Starship Hospital to tend to another sick child. She pleaded with women in the sort of violent relationship she said had contributed to Moko being left with Shailer, to take action.
"Start planning. Stop procrastinating. Organise all your personal information and any ID you will need in the future. Have an emergency plan. Don't be afraid to ask for help and don't be ashamed for it."
Dally-Paki said she had read in a Stuff story that Moko's sister attended a programme where the child allegedly disclosed to Maori Women's refuge social worker Trina Marama that she and Shailer had been hitting Moko but nothing was done.
"I now understand that due to the organisation wanting to protect themselves they have back-tracked from these comments," Dally Paki told the court. "I hope this inquest will get to the truth of the matter.
"Twelve years experience as a trained social worker and she says that not once did she pick up any signs that something was not right in one of the worst child killings in New Zealand history," she said."
Earlier Detective Inspector Lewis Warner who was officer in charge of Moko's case, told the hearing
that the "child disclosed both she and Tania had been hitting Moko."
But the court heard Marama would later testify that her police statement was hat was either inaccurately written or misunderstood.
Text warnings of Shailer under stress
Dally-Paki had left her two children with Shailer after she had to go to Starship Hospital to tend to another sick child.
Warner tabled a report of concern produced by social worker Selina Moore in connection to Dally-Paki's sick child. The report was created because of non-compliance of medical treatment needed to care for her sick child.
It is understood her child broke his leg after a fall but a sepsis infection occurred due to not administering medicine for at least three days.
"Mum provided different reasons for non-compliance however her behaviour and actions demonstrated medical neglect," the report said, leading to a four month stay in hospital for the child.
Dally-Paki had initially taken her other children to Starship Hospital with her and was sometimes staying on the floor of the hospital. It was this reason that led to her leaving Moko with Shailer.
Warner's testimony also revealed text messages from Shailer saying she was not coping with caring for her children as well as Moko and his sister.
On June 16 Shailer messaged Dally-Paki saying, "uve gt 2 remember I have 4kids n we already live week to week sis...N I no uve got so much on ur plate at the Mo bu so do we bro! Hurri up gt shit sorts aiight cause kids r missing u!"
She also sent messages to friends saying her depression was kicking in badly and "these other 2kids r doing my head in"
It is unsure when the violence began towards Moko but it is understood the violence began to escalate quickly near the end of his death. Shailer, described by Warren as a liar, created a web of deceit to prevent people knowing how Moko was being injured.
"She said Moko had a habit of hitting his head against the wall," Warren said.
Shailer also lied to hospital staff about how Moko received his injuries.
String of events put Moko in hands of his killers
A family violence expert said everyone was doing what they could to help Moko's mother but there were definite gaps that need to be addressed quicker.
Statements from Shine, an organisation that assists those suffering family violence, were read out to the inquest.
"There needs to be a better understanding of violence and trauma and what it does to families," they said. "Clients might present as unengaging but they only sticking to coping mechanisms they have picked up along the way to survive."
Shine reveals a series of situations that led to Moko being left in the hands of his killers.
While staying at Starship Hospital with her children Ronald McDonald House approved an application for Moko's mother, Nicola Dally-Paki to stay. "This got declined at a later point due to Nicola's address changing in the system," the report said.
"The address would state she was residing in Auckland but in reality, the only place she was residing was in Starship along with the children. She had all her belongings in storage."
Shine said there was likely a breakdown of communication as Dally-Paki assumed her application was declined due to the violence history and gang affiliations.
While Dally-Paki wanted to have her children with her it was not suitable to have them on the ward.
Nurses took kindly to the children on the ward and offered help, but it was outside their normal role in the hospital and there may have been pressure applied from upper management to move them along.
The children were sent to Tania after Dally-Paki was told they can no longer stay on the ward. She contacted Shailer as they used to work at a Kohanga Reo together.
"Nicola was not aware that Tania was with her partner as they had separated a long time ago," the report said.
Family blamed mum for Moko's death
After Moko was murdered, Shine says, Dally-Paki received blame from family which caused additional stress.
"There were conversations about why she made that decision and that she could have sent them somewhere else," the report said. "Most people did not know her circumstances."
When identifying Moko's body at the morgue family, on Moko's father's side, are said to have become angry, causing further strife. Dally-Paki also said to Shine she had no-one supporting her at the morgue and the Maori cultural view around seeing the body and having a ritual take place was not provided adding another level of grief.
The Ministry for Vulnerable Children eventually took Dally-Paki's children out of her care as she had made contact with their father. This was 'against the rules' but Shine said it was not surprising given the loss of Moko in such a violent manner.
Shine's recommendation is that parents need to be more involved in the process to remove children from their care especially when circumstances are not fully understood.
"The only people to blame are those that killed Moko but that doesn't mean processes can't be improved."