Police conducted welfare check on Ruthless-Empire three months before death

Police have revealed officers conducted a welfare check on toddler Ruthless-Empire three months before his death but say there were no concerns during their visit.   

It comes as Oranga Tamariki review what – if any – support Ruthless-Empire Ahipene-Wall and his whānau were receiving at the time he was killed and if any interventions could have occurred.  

Ruthless-Empire's initial unexplained death was upgraded to a homicide last week, where police revealed the post-mortem results showed he died due to blunt-force trauma.

Three people were living in a Lower Hutt home with Ruthless-Empire at the time of his death. 

It's understood Ruthless-Empire was injured up to 12 hours before he was found in an unresponsive state on October 22.    

He was taken to Hutt Hosptial but died shortly afterwards. Police are working with three adults known to Baby Ru, who are considered people of interest.    

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

In an update provided to Newshub on Thursday, police confirmed they received a call requesting a welfare check in July.   

The spokesperson said police officers conducted the welfare check in the Waikato region, though "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.   

Reremoana and his mother called police in July asking for them to conduct the welfare check. He said "they went there and they just said that everything was okay". 

Ruthless-Empire lived with Reremoana's mother for most of his life, though he told the Herald the toddler stayed with different whānau at times.

"We were all like playing pass the parcel with Ruthless," he said.

On Thursday Det Insp Pritchard said police are "determined" to establish what unfolded, and to "form a picture of events" that led to Ruthless-Empire's death.

"A homicide investigation is by its very nature methodical and detailed, and establishing the facts can take some time."

Det Insp Pritchard said the people of interest "continue to engage with us."

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.