NZ Local News

Auckland baby murder trial: Jury finds Tipene Te Ahuru guilty of murder

Editor Written by Editor · 4 min read >


A jury has found Tipene Te Ahuru guilty of murdering his baby son Amaziah after deliberating for a little under three hours.

The unanimous verdict came on Tuesday afternoon after a week of evidence at his trial in the High Court at Auckland.

Te Ahuru, 32, looked stunned and a tear appeared on his face as the verdict was announced by the foreman.

Amaziah’s mother, Raurangi Richards, Te Ahuru’s former partner, watched from the public gallery.

Justice Jane Anderson set a sentencing date of July 10.

Amaziah, who was three months old, suffered extensive injuries in a brief period while Richards was out doing the laundry on September 18, 2022.

He died after 11 days on life support as Te Ahuru gave incomplete and conflicting accounts of what happened.

Expert medical witnesses said Amaziah’s head injury was in all likelihood the result of abuse.

As Justice Anderson said in her summing up of the case on Tuesday morning, this was a trial by jury, not a trial by experts.

Tipene Te Ahuru's murder trial lasted a little over a week and finished with a unanimous guilty verdict on Tuesday afternoon, after about three hours of deliberations from the jury. Photo / Nick Reed
Tipene Te Ahuru’s murder trial lasted a little over a week and finished with a unanimous guilty verdict on Tuesday afternoon, after about three hours of deliberations from the jury. Photo / Nick Reed

There were also some differences in opinion between key medical experts, the judge said.

Forensic pathologist Dr Simon Stables, who conducted Amaziah’s autopsy, said he had suffered a subdural haematoma, a build-up of blood between the brain and its outermost covering, or dura.

Between the dura and the brain’s surface were small and fragile blood vessels, Stables explained.

When a head came down suddenly on a surface, the brain lagged behind the skull and caused those vessels to snap like chewing gum suddenly stretched.

Crown prosecutor Luke Radich asked Stables if a child could suffer a head injury like Amaziah’s from a short fall, as suggested by Te Ahuru’s lawyer Kelly-Ann Stoikoff.

“It can happen, but it’s incredibly rare,” the pathologist said.

The prosecution case is Te Ahuru forcibly struck his son or smashed him into another object because the head injury was too severe to have been caused by a fall alone.

Tipene Te Ahuru, 32, appears in the High Court at Auckland on May 6, the first day of his murder trial. He has now been found guilty of inflicting fatal injuries on his baby son Amaziah on September 18, 2022. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Tipene Te Ahuru, 32, appears in the High Court at Auckland on May 6, the first day of his murder trial. He has now been found guilty of inflicting fatal injuries on his baby son Amaziah on September 18, 2022. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Paediatrician Dr Patrick Kelly was more definitive, saying there was “no other reasonable possibility” than Amaziah’s injuries being the result of abusive head trauma.

The defence case was that the possibility could not be ruled out that the injuries were caused by Te Ahuru accidentally dropping his son.

Stoikoff, in her closing address, explained her client’s inconsistent and evolving accounts of what happened across several police interviews as a very human reaction of someone in a stressful situation trying to protect themselves and their family.

She said there was enough uncertainty in the medical evidence and over what happened in the bedroom and what was going through Te Ahuru’s head to ensure that the high standard required for guilt in criminal prosecutions – beyond reasonable doubt – could not be met.

“You simply can’t be sure,” she told the jury.

Radich, in his opening address, said the trial was about what happened in the half an hour in which Te Ahuru, agitated and impatient, was alone with Amaziah.

Richards needed to leave the cramped unit in Reagan Rd, Manukau, to do some washing at a laundromat a short drive away.

Both parents were unemployed and there were two other children under 5 from her previous relationship living in the home.

Radich described it as a stressful environment in which there was little hope of personal space or personal advancement.

Richards wasn’t completely relaxed about leaving their home even for a short time. Amaziah had been a bit unsettled and Te Ahuru was agitated.

The mood in the Papatoetoe unit was tense. “Nonetheless, the laundry needed to be done.”

Within only a few minutes, Te Ahuru was trying to call his partner.

She missed six calls in a short space of time as she loaded large quantities of laundry into several machines, Radich said.

She eventually tried to call him back.

He did not pick up, so she went back to her car and rushed home, leaving her washing in the machines and running a red light.

When the couple eventually connected by phone, Te Ahuru said something about their boy not being fully conscious or breathing, Radich said.

She told him to get off the phone and call an ambulance.

When she got home, he had not phoned 111, the prosecutor said. “She immediately realised something was drastically wrong with her son.”

Radich played a recorded phone call to the jury of Richards calling 111. “My baby’s barely breathing,” she told the operator.

The boy was taking breaths only every 20 seconds or so and did not appear conscious, she said.

“Oh my God … tell me he’s not going to die,” she is heard saying.

The operator talked her through performing CPR before paramedics arrived and took over, eventually managing to restore the child’s breathing.

Amaziah was taken first to Middlemore Hospital, then to Starship. He died after 11 days on life support.

Richards, 23, gave evidence at the trial and described Amaziah as an “absolute surprise”, saying he had been born about five weeks early.

They had spent weeks in hospital before returning home, she said.

On September 18, her baby seemed upset and would not stay asleep, as the young couple readied the house for a visit from family.

“No matter how much we tried to settle him, he just wouldn’t settle,” she said. “It was getting quite frustrating.”

Richards said she felt tired, impatient and hōhā (annoyed) that day.

When she left to do the laundry, her baby had none of the injuries she would find when she returned.

Under questioning from Radich, Richards described her shock while driving when she heard Te Ahuru tell her the baby wasn’t breathing properly.

“As soon as I heard what he had to say, that’s when I ran the light,” she said.

“I was confused as to why he was on the phone to me and not the ambulance.”

When she arrived home, she left the car running outside and rushed in to find Te Ahuru holding their child.

She described the baby as appearing exhausted.

“When I got over to him, I could see that he was more than exhausted. When I grabbed him, he was freezing cold.”

Radich, in his closing address, honed in on comments Te Ahuru made to police about his own father.

“The one thing I never wanted to be was an abuser like him,” Te Ahuru said.

“And now it’s my son sitting in the hospital fighting for his f***ing life and I’m just like, ‘F***, I am my dad’.”

The prosecutor said the comments did not gel with Te Ahuru’s account of what happened.

“This is a curious way to phrase things if what happened to Amaziah was an accident rather than abuse.”

He told the jury their role was not to sociologically analyse the couple’s grim circumstances but to look at the evidence.

It all pointed to Te Ahuru losing his cool and doing the unthinkable, he said.

“It’s the grim reality, but it is the reality.”

George Block is an Auckland-based reporter with a focus on police, the courts, prisons and defence. He joined the Herald in 2022 and has previously worked at Stuff in Auckland and the Otago Daily Times in Dunedin.



Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

WP Twitter Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com