Baby Ruthless-Empire homicide: Police seek sightings of vehicle of interest, say 'highly relevant' items 'deliberately moved' from Taita property

Warning: This article contains details some readers may find distressing.  

Police are appealing for sightings of a grey-green 1994 Nissan Sentra they believe is crucial to the ongoing investigation into the homicide of baby Ruthless-Empire Ahipene-Wall.  

Ruthless-Empire, also known as baby Ru, was killed at a Taita property on October 22. What was initially described as an unexplained death was upgraded to a homicide on October 26, when police revealed the post-mortem results showed the infant died due to blunt-force trauma.  

There are currently three persons of interest that police continue to speak to, all of whom officers believe were present at the time the fatal injuries were inflicted.   

In a press conference on Friday morning, Detective Inspector Nick Pritchard said the vehicle - registration TE6972 - had travelled to Hutt Valley Hospital on October 22, the day of baby Ru's death. Officers understand Ru and the three persons of interest were in the car at the time.

The car then returned to the Taita address, where a person or persons removed "critical evidence" that was relevant to the homicide investigation, Det Insp Pritchard revealed.

The property taken from the scene in the vehicle was then either concealed or disposed of, he said, adding the items were "highly relevant" to the alleged homicide and had been "deliberately moved".

Officers are continuing to build a timeline of the vehicle's movements and are appealing for the public to come forward with any sightings or footage of the car, or persons in or around the vehicle, across the Wellington region from the morning on October 22 to the afternoon of October 24. The car itself had been seized and since returned to its owner.

the Nissan sedan, registration TE6972.
Police are appealing for sightings of the Nissan sedan, registration TE6972. Photo credit: Newshub

He reiterated the police team are committed to a thorough investigation into Ru's death and said he understands how "upsetting" the case has been, not only for the whānau, but the wider public.  

A scene examination has been completed and "items of relevance" are currently undergoing forensic testing, he added.  

He said police are dealing with "varying degrees of cooperation and engagement" from the three persons of interest, urging anyone who has information about the case to come forward.

Ru had sustained "severe" and fatal injuries to his head, Det Insp Pritchard said, either inflicted by a weapon or from "physical force" - such as "slamming [his] head on a hard floor, or a table".

"This poor child suffered a violent death," he said.

"It's really tough - a lot of us are fathers, we have families. To see this level of violence against a young child, it's really hard to fathom. We are supporting our team."

Officers believe the "multiple injuries" were "intentionally caused" and were sustained on the morning of October 22, despite it previously being understood that Ru was injured up to 12 hours before he was found in an unresponsive state.

Information obtained after the scene examination led the police back to the Taita address to conduct further testing, he added.  

The team is continuing to build a picture of Ru's life before his death with the help of Oranga Tamariki: it was previously revealed that police officers conducted a welfare check on the child in the Waikato region in July, although "no welfare concerns were noted during the visit".    

It follows a report from the NZ Herald where the uncle of Ruthless-Empire, Ngatanahira Reremoana, said he contacted Oranga Tamariki in December with concerns about his nephew and wanted him uplifted.     

Police are continuing to urge anyone with information that could assist their investigation to come forward and contact police on 105.     

Alternatively, information can be provided via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Watch police's Friday update in the video player below. If you can't see it in your Newshub app, click here.