Silence let child abuse continue

By KAY BLUNDELL – The Dominion Post | Monday, 23 June 2008

Three children repeatedly beaten with a broom handle were so hungry they had to rummage in rubbish bins, and yet neighbours were too scared to report the cruelty they witnessed.

Kylie Tekani, 30, of Porirua, has been sentenced in Wellington District Court to eight months’ home detention after pleading guilty to three charges of cruelty to a child and assault with a weapon.

The children, aged 5, 6 and 8, were repeatedly beaten and the youngest had such a severe infestation of head lice that her hair fell out in hanks.

Neighbours in Penguin Grove saw the children searching through rubbish bins and asking for food. Locked outside, the children would huddle under a tree, sometimes till dark.

Though people would slip food to them as they passed on their way to school, they were too scared to report the cruelty, partly because of the intimidating presence of patched Mongrel Mob members who lived in the street. “We know it is best to keep out of other people’s business,” a resident said.

Another, gesturing toward the gang house, said it was wiser not to get involved. Others were too fearful to speak to The Dominion Post.

Outside the court, Tekani said she was relieved the case was over. “I want to get on with a new life.”

The court was told that Tekani was attending a violence intervention programme, had a new job, was going to church and was seeing her children under supervision.

“You have made a real effort to improve your life,” Judge Bruce Davidson said.

Police became aware of the children’s plight when the youngest girl was admitted to hospital. She had been hit on the back of the head so hard that her head was forced through a bedroom wall.

The children’s stepfather, Norman Makai, 21, was jailed this year for 5 1/2 years for ill-treatment of the children and wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

Judge Davidson said he believed Tekani had also been subjected to violence.

“I have no doubt Makai was violent toward you … and to some extent wore you down, but you still failed to intervene to protect your three vulnerable children.”

Makai had said he hit the girl because she had hardly eaten her dinner.

Doctors found her emaciated and with bruising and swelling on the backs of her legs, on her buttocks and lower back from repeated beatings. The other children had similar injuries.

The youngest survived brain surgery, but had to learn to walk and talk again and had to wear a crash helmet for six months to protect her injured skull.

Medical staff indicated she would continue to suffer visual problems, behaviour disorders, learning and social problems and possibly seizures.

Inspector Mike Craig said experienced police dealing with the case were shocked by the girl’s injuries and the ill-treatment the children endured.

The children were placed in the care of Child, Youth and Family, and now live with their paternal grandmother.

If only someone in the neighbourhood had alerted the police or CYF, the girl might not have ended up in hospital, Mr Craig said.


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