NZ Herald story 1st October 2005
A Blockhouse Bay couple have been jailed for seven years for a "murderous and brutal" attack on their 4-month-old baby - and then staging an accident to cover up their crime. Ken Miracle Tanuvasa survived, but in the Auckland District Court yesterday Judge Phil Gittos said it was a close-run thing. His mother, 29-year-old Lelei Tanuvasa, was found guilty by a jury in August of injuring with intent and causing grievous bodily harm. Her husband, Keleti Tanuvasa, 25, was also found guilty of grievous bodily harm, which occurred while the infant was strapped into a carseat during a trip from Avondale to Ellerslie in September 2003.
The Crown maintained that the injuries were caused by the child's mother, but the father did nothing to stop her and later engaged in subterfuge to cover up the attack. Judge Gittos said the child's injuries were consistent with a frenzied and very violent attack. A paediatrician at Starship children's hospital said the force used was "murderous". The baby suffered multiple skull fractures, a fracture to the base of the skull causing bleeding from the ears, a broken arm that had been snapped backwards against the carseat, and strangulation with the carseat belt across his throat almost to the point of asphyxiation. The mother's conviction for injuring with intent related to an earlier incident when the child suffered two broken ribs that were left unattended, leaving him with bulges in his side.
Crown prosecutor David McNaughton said the mother didn't take the child to the doctor until a relative insisted, because she was scared the authorities would find out. She maintained that the boy injured his ribs in a fall from a sofa, but the judge said that was unsustainable in terms of the medical evidence. Mr McNaughton said that as the family travelled from Avondale to Ellerslie, the child was subjected to a series of assaults of increasing ferocity. When they arrived at Ellerslie, the child and his carseat were put in a van belonging to the supervised residence where the mother and couple's children were staying. As the van driver rounded a corner, the mother engineered for the carseat to tip forward against the dashboard.
People in the van realised the child was badly hurt and called an ambulance. Judge Gittos said the mother contrived the accident as an explanation for how the child's injuries occurred, but it was "wholly fatuous" and flew in the face of the medical evidence. The couple claimed they did nothing to harm their child and did not know what happened, but maintained that it happened in the van. That was also untrue, the judge said. The injuries happened while they were with the boy. Had the child not been treated when he was, he would most likely have died, said Judge Gittos. The couple's children are now under CYFS care.
Date of Birth
Assault of their four month old baby in September 2003, described as a murderous and brutal attack
Sentenced to just 7 years in September 2005
Eligible for parole December 2007
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OFFENCES / CONVICTIONS
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