LA Tukerangi's parents thankful for support

LA Tukerangi (Supplied)
LA Tukerangi (Supplied)

She's back with her family, but no one is saying what happened to 15-year-old LA Tukerangi.

The teenager said she had been kidnapped, but her parents say their girl is too traumatised to give details.

Chris and Marie Tukerangi are overwhelmed their daughter is safe.

"As a mother you don't wish this on anybody, because it just breaks you as a mother," says Ms Tukerangi. "What helped us get through was the love and support that we got."

On August 1, LA messaged her family saying she had been kidnapped by a man twice her age – 36-year-old career criminal Dean Whakatau.

A panicked family went public and, after a police appeal, Whakatau's car was spotted in Te Kaha, Bay of Plenty, and LA was found.

On Saturday she went home.

Mr Tukerangi says LA has been back with her family for about three days after doing "her bit with the police".

"She has been heavily traumatised… just the look on her face said 1000 words to us," he says. "The first thing we did when we saw her was honestly give her the biggest hug and kiss – well, quite a few kisses actually – that you could ever imagine."

But was LA held against her will? Dad Mr Tukerangi says the look on his daughter's face stopped him asking.

"It just almost left me speechless," he says. "You just look at her face and [it was] just heavily traumatised."

LA is now back under her parents' roof and is also seeing social workers at the Manukau Urban Maori Authority.

Bay of Plenty police specialist investigators have interviewed the teenager, but all they will say is the investigation as to what happened between LA and Whakatau is ongoing.

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