19 Feb 2020

Father of beaten Flaxmere boy goes into hiding after receiving threats

7:54 am on 19 February 2020

A father has gone into hiding after being threatened in the aftermath of his son being admitted to Starship Hospital with severe head injuries, relatives say.

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The boy is still recovering in Starship Hospital. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Three weeks ago, police found the four-year-old in the Hastings suburb of Flaxmere with severe brain damage and other extensive injuries.

Two of the man's brothers - the young boy's uncles - say they don't know how the boy was hurt but just want the truth, which may come from the boy himself.

Speaking to RNZ outside their South Auckland home, Jerry and Cade said he's making some progress in hospital, although he will be permanently disabled.

"He's talking to the nurses, talks to my nan, and little brothers. He's actually recovering very [well]," Jerry said.

They said this is the second head injury the boy has had recently. Last year, they said, he fell from a bouncy castle onto concrete at a birthday party in Hawke's Bay.

They say Oranga Tamariki was then involved, and the boy went to live in Auckland with the boy's paternal grandparents. A few months later they said he went back to Flaxmere.

Then three weeks ago, on 29 January, the boy was found with severe brain damage and extensive injuries to his whole body.

He's now in Auckland's Starship Hospital. No one has been arrested.

The brutal injuries sparked a large response from an upset community in Hawke's Bay. A couple of hundred people met in Flaxmere to stand hand in hand against child abuse, and to say karakia for the boy.

The Flaxmere community has gathered  for a karakia for a four-year-old child seriously injured in a beating at unknown hands two weeks ago.

Hundreds of people from the Flaxmere community gathered at a local park for a karakia for the four year old. Photo: RNZ / Anusha Bradley

It's also brought out angry threats of vigilante justice. Jerry and Cade said their brother, the father of the boy, has fled for his safety.

"He's hiding away from people because there are [too many] lies on Facebook. Facebook's spreading too [many] rumours."

They said their brother has told them nothing about what happened, but did say he was at work at the time the injuries happened.

Police have said they've been unable to garner what they believe is critical information from the people in the house at the time, and say there's more to the story than they've been told.

Uncles say they don't know what happened

Jerry and Cade said three weeks on they still don't know what happened to the pre-schooler.

"Lots of people are trying to figure out what's happened to him. Because no one has told us what really happened. Some people think he has been beaten up.

"All I can say is we can only wait on the results from the hospital. That's the only way everyone's going to know if he's been bashed."

The police said there were some family members with the boy that day. The uncles said people must know what happened.

"Someone would have seen what happened, and someone has to bring the truth out. He's never on his own."

But, in the absence of any adult speaking out, the boy might be able to tell his story one day.

"The only way we're going to figure this out is if we ask my nephew himself when he recovers... He's an honest kid, and he'll tell anyone what happened."

Police said they're making progress with their investigation, and are still trying to work out how the boy was injured.

They are encouraging anyone who has any knowledge of the case to come forward. They're also asking people not to speculate or take any action which might hinder their inquiry.

Oranga Tamariki have previously said it could not comment on the case due to the ongoing police investigation, but said it is continuing to work with the whānau to offer support and are working with other professionals in Hawke's Bay.

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