Moko's killers to be sentenced

Moko Rangitoheriri (supplied)
Moko Rangitoheriri (supplied)

It's been more than 10 months since the death of three-year-old Moko Rangitoheriri -- and now, the caregivers who killed him are about to be sentenced for manslaughter.

On Monday morning, Tania Shailer and David Haerewa will find out their punishment for beating the toddler so badly that he eventually died on August 10, 2015.

The pair had been asked to look after Moko and his seven-year-old sister while their mother, Nicola Dally-Paki, was at Starship Hospital caring for one of her other children.

Instead, they tortured Moko so terribly that when it came time for Ms Dally-Paki to identify the toddler's body in the morgue, she could not even recognise her son.

Coroner Wallace Bain is overseeing the inquest into Moko's death, and has compared it to the tragic death of Rotorua toddler Nia Glassie eight years ago.

Ms Dally-Paki says her young daughter was the first person to tell her about the horrific abuse Moko had suffered.

"She told me that Moko was locked in the bathroom for two weeks. She'd tried to stay home from school to try and feed my son, 'cause they were starving him," she told Story last month.

She says her daughter told her: "'He wasn't talking Mummy. I tried to tell David, and I told Tania he's not talking and he needs to see the doctor, and they wouldn't listen Mummy.'"

While blame landed squarely at the feet of Shailer and Haerewa, Child, Youth and Family (CYF) has also received heavy criticism for not doing more to protect Moko.

When the organisation met with Shailer just two weeks before his death she mentioned the "personal strain" of looking after two additional children. CYF also admitted it wasn't aware that Haerewa was living with her at the time.

Haerewa later admitted to police that he'd slapped, kicked and stomped on Moko, and confessed he would regularly lock the toddler in a bathroom on his own for hours at a time.

A summary of facts also revealed that Shailer, who was an early childcare teacher, stomped on Moko's stomach and abdomen -- injuries believed to have been the main contributors to his death.

Haerewa and Shailer's defence entered a plea bargain that resulted in their murder charges being downgraded to manslaughter. The pair pleaded guilty to those charges.

That has riled the Sensible Sentencing Trust, who launched a petition earlier this month to abolish plea bargains altogether. Trust founder Garth McVicar says he's confident Moko's death will be a catalyst for change in that area.

"Anybody who commits an atrocity like that -- the defence is going to enter a plea bargain," he said.

Whatever happens in Monday's sentencing, there is no doubt that Moko's death will have a lasting impact.

Outgoing Children's Commissioner Russell Wills says the case has caused him to question humanity, and says the toddler's death will haunt him forever.