Louana Merry Lydia Ngarepene Patuwai
NZ Herald story 17th April 2004
Louana Patuwai held her critically hurt son in her arms last Christmas as she watched their family's home burn to the ground. Inside, her partner, Harry Grant, was desperately searching the stucco-clad bungalow for his two remaining children who had been tucked up asleep in their beds. But with flames leaping out of the roof and into the night sky, the trio never emerged through the black smoke which was billowing out of their front door in Patutahi, 15km from Gisborne. Yesterday, the 25 year-old mother was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for failing to provide the necessaries of life. She had been at the town's pub that night, drinking and playing pool with Mr Grant, instead of being at home looking after their children.
Just days before the blaze, Patuwai had been helping her daughter Kihini, 6, son Eru, 4, and her youngest child, Watene, 3, hang tinsel and Santa Claus decorations in and around their rented home. The family were in high spirits and on December 19, the last Friday before Christmas, they spent several hours at the home of Maaka Paul, who worked with Mr Grant on a large horticultural block. "We were just having a few beers after work. Then Harry went and brought all his family back here and the kids were running around and playing on their bikes outside," Mr Paul recalls. At about 8.30pm, Mr Paul and Mr Grant decided to head down to the Patutahi Tavern. Patuwai dropped them off, then drove her children home and made them instant noodles for dinner.
But she forgot to turn off the stove and unwittingly put the empty pot back on the hot element before she put the youngsters to bed. She drove back to the pub to pick up Mr Grant, but was persuaded to stay and have a few drinks herself. She played pool while a large television in the corner belted out music videos across the smoky room. Mr Grant often used to stop off at the tavern on his way home from work. Other patrons remember him having a good time that evening - his distinctive laugh could be heard well above the general din. An hour-and-a-half quickly passed and on the short drive home up Lavenham Rd, the couple saw a blaze of orange flickering through the trees. They tore up their long, gravel driveway and over a cattle stop before Mr Grant ran up the concrete front steps and disappeared inside.
Through the smoke, Patuwai could see a small pair of legs standing in the hallway. She crawled inside and hauled out Eru - who had suffered burns to 20 per cent of his body - and held him in their neatly kept garden as the house burned. Detective Senior Sergeant Craig Scott said the 100-year-old rimu-framed home was well alight by the time help arrived. "You couldn't have gone in. You could see the flames coming out of the roof from 400 or 500 metres away. "The way the house was built, it was like a chimney. Everything just funnelled straight up. It was a hell of a thing to bring under control." Today, a twisted pile of charred metal sits in what was once the kitchen. The melted oven lies next to the remains of a refrigerator. Green guttering weaves through the heap and a dented Sky satellite dish lies on top.
Patuwai's landlords do not intend to rebuild the home and the paddock next door is now being used as a temporary wrecker's yard. Although Patuwai was yesterday granted leave to apply for home detention, news of her prison sentence will come as a shock to many in the rural community of Patutahi, who were praying the 25-year-old would not be sent to jail. The principal of the local school, Carmen Edwards, said Patuwai - known as Lou to her friends - was a wonderful mother who made one dreadful mistake. The loss of her family was punishment enough. "I challenge any parent to say they've never once left their children alone, be it for however long. "Harry and Lou were both damn good parents.
"Their kids never went without anything," Miss Edwards said. Kihini, who attended Patutahi School and would have turned 7 in February, was adorable and intelligent and always wore a big smile. "Her fluency in te reo was just brilliant and when she was done up for kapa haka with a moko, she was really beautiful." Kihini's brothers were described by locals as mischievous and playful, exploring everything around them. Eru was supposed to have joined his elder sister at school this year. Miss Edwards and others in the community have written to Patuwai urging her to return to the East Coast town where she has lived for the past three years. But for now, mother and son remain in South Auckland, recovering from their ordeal with the support of relatives.
Mr Grant's cousin, Audrey Trotman, said Eru was still visiting doctors on a weekly basis but was largely fit and well. "He's fortunate to have a large family on both sides who care for him very much," she said yesterday. Mr Scott acknowledges that Patuwai has been through an enormously traumatic experience but he believes her sentence was fair. "She's not the first parent to leave their children at home while they've gone to the pub but if anything was to come out of this, she'd be the last."
From the Dominion Post 28th September 2007
A Papakura woman who drove her car into a group of people in Hastings is facing an "inevitable" prison sentence when she comes up for sentencing in November. Louana Patuwai, 28, a solo mother, pleaded guilty to a charge of wounding with intent, in Hastings District Court yesterday. Patuwai was driving her vehicle from a party in Hastings about 7.30am on May 26 with a group of people in the car. After several kilometres an argument developed and Patuwai told the group to get out of the vehicle. She then followed them along Heretaunga St in Hastings before driving up on to the footpath.
Lining the group up, Patuwai accelerated rapidly into them with several people taking evasive action to avoid being hit. A 23-year-old woman was hit and suffered a fractured spine, injuries to her abdomen, severely swollen and bruised thighs and cuts to her body. Patuwai did not stop. She was later found and arrested by police. She was remanded in custody till sentencing in Napier High Court on November 9. Judge Tony Adeane said "a sentence of prison was inevitable"
Date of Birth
Failing to provide the necessaries of her children’s lives after leaving them at home and a fire occurred in 2003
Wounded a 23 year old woman after she deliberately drove her car into a group of people in Hastings in May 2007
Also has other convictions for drink driving
Was sentenced to 18 months in April 2004
Was sentenced to 4 years in November 2007
Parole declined January 2009
Had last known hearing January 2010
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OFFENCES / CONVICTIONS
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