27 Apr 2018

Father storms out of court as kidnapper discharged

From Checkpoint, 5:16 pm on 27 April 2018

A father stormed out of the High Court in Auckland in anger this morning as one of the women who kidnapped his baby was discharged without conviction.

A major search was launched for the missing girl after she was taken from her Epsom home early on 9 August.

The baby was found safe about six hours later.

The kidnap plot had been created by the nanny who had been taking care of her for three days.

The woman, Nadene Faye Manukau-Togiavalu, had told her family months prior that she was pregnant.

She even went as far as holding a baby shower and wore a pregnancy belly to keep up with the lie.

When Ms Manukau-Togiavalu took the job as the baby's nanny she told her cousin, Sydnee Shaunna Toulapapa, that it was in fact her baby, that she had adopted it out and now wanted her back.

Ms Toulapapa who pleaded guilty to the kidnap last month was sentenced in the High Court in Auckland today - where she was discharged without conviction.

Her defence council Annabel Cresswell told the court her client was naive and really believed the baby was her cousin's.

"When she committed the act of taking the baby, she still believed that the baby was her cousin's, she was following instructions from her cousin and her intention always was to return the baby to her cousin. She thought that was the right thing to do."

Ms Cresswell said her client should be discharged without conviction, because at the young age of 19 she would struggle to find employment if convicted.

"She is someone who is gullible, she is too trusting, she is someone who is slightly scared of her cousin and she has taken the steps she has taken really labouring under a misapprehension."

Justice Woodhouse agreed, he discharged Ms Toulapapa without conviction but ordered her to carry out 400 hours of community work and pay the baby's parents $2000 if they should accept it.

"The gravest aspect of your offence is the significant harm you inflicted on the parents of the baby you abducted and it was significant," Justice Woodhouse said.

He acknowledged that she was very remorseful and had offered a letter of apology to the family.

Your adult life would be permanently blighted in significant ways before it's even started, he said.

Nadene Faye Manukau-Togiavalu who also pleaded guilty to the kidnapping has not yet been sentenced.

A parent's worst nightmare

At the sentencing in the High Court today the father of the baby got emotional as he read out his and his wife's victim impact statements.

He said he had married his university sweetheart and described their six year battle to have a child.

It was a difficult pregnancy and even more difficult birth, my wife's heart-rate dropped and our baby was born through emergency C-section, he told the court.

The couple had hired Nadene Faye Manukau-Togiavalu as a nanny to help them catch up on sleep and recover from the birth.

She had only been with them for three days when their baby was taken.

"I was woken up on August 9th to a parents worst nightmare, our 11-day-old baby had been kidnapped from our home.

"About 7am Nadene came into our room saying that the house had been robbed, when I came out to the lounge the backdoor was open and our precious baby was not in her cot," he said.

He told the court the thought their baby had been taken put him and his wife into a panic.

"I ran out the door as if someone would have been just around the corner but that was not the case, after a frantic search I called the police.

"Through all the panic I remembered we had CCTV footage so we sat down to watch it with the officers, like something out of a horror movie I saw a female wearing a balaclava creeping up our back step, peeking into the windows, she slowly opened the back door.

"She left a few minutes later carrying some bags and the most precious thing in our lives - our baby girl, as she crept back down the stairs I could see her use a remote to open the gate - that's when I looked at Nadene and asked her where our baby was," the father said.

He said the seven hours they were without their baby were the worst of their entire lives.

"We have trouble sleeping, we don't trust many people with our girl and we have had to get professional help for the on-going affects this has had on us," he said.

He said the kidnapping was a complete violation of trust.