Investigation into death of Lower Hutt toddler upgraded to homicide probe

Police have confirmed the unexplained death of a child in Te Awakairangi / Lower Hutt at the weekend is now being treated as a homicide.

Detective Inspector Nick Pritchard told reporters on Thursday afternoon the child's name was Ruthless-Empire Ahipene-Wall.

"He would have turned two years old yesterday, and whānau had been preparing to celebrate his birthday," he said.

He acknowledged that police were aware of reports claiming Ahipene-Wall had ingested wet wipes prior to his death, but post-mortem results showed he died due to blunt-force trauma.

"We believe that these injuries were not accidental," Det Insp Pritchard said.

It's believed Ahipene-Wall died up to 12 hours before he was found in an unresponsive state on Sunday at roughly 12:30pm.

The boy was taken to Hutt Hospital but died shortly afterwards.

Police have since conducted a scene examination at a Taitā property and have spoken to people believed to have been present when Ahipene-Wall was injured.

Three adults known to the boy are considered persons of interest.

"Staff are actively working to engage with them, as well as other whānau members," Det Insp Pritchard continued.

"This is a heartbreaking situation, and we have an extensive investigation team committed to getting answers about what happened to Ru."

Police are supporting the wider whānau, alongside victim support.

"This level of violence towards a child is difficult to fathom, and we will work hard to ensure a thorough investigation is carried out to determine exactly what happened."

The public can report information, photos, or videos to police by calling 105, or filing online here, or calling Crime Stoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or the website here.

"We urge those who have information about what happened to Baby Ru to look deep, and do the right thing, and tell us what you know."

Watch police's Thursday media conference below. App users click here if you can't see it on your app's screen.