12 Jun 2024

Baby boy who died in Te Kūiti was 'the joy of the house'

8:05 am on 12 June 2024
Police launch homicide investigation after baby boy dies in Waikato - home where alleged homicide happened.

Police say the boy died of violent blunt force trauma which they believe was inflicted on Saturday Photo: RNZ/Natalie Akoorie

The tight-knit Muslim community in the Waikato town of Te Kūiti is grieving after the death of a baby boy at the weekend.

A homicide investigation is under way after 10-month-old Mustafa Ali arrived unconscious at the Waikato town's hospital on Saturday afternoon.

Police say the boy died of violent blunt force trauma which they believe was inflicted on Saturday, and that he was already known to police for non-accidental injuries he suffered last year.

Moshif Hussain is the owner of the house in Te Kūiti where Mustafa and his parents lived with two male flatmates.

He said he first knew the couple through the Te Kūiti Mosque which the baby's father Mukzameel Ali would visit, and that he had rented the place to them in July last year when the mother was pregnant.

Hussain said he visited the family three times - most recently about three months ago - and thought everything seemed to be fine.

"They seem like a normal family to me, happy young couple seen in the community, and they seem like good happy couple really, proud parents, that's what I saw them as in public," he said.

Hussain said the baby was the "joy of the house", and that he couldn't believe what had happened.

"I was very shocked, for the family and the extended family," he said.

He said there were about 80 people in the Muslim community across Te Kūiti and Te Awamutu, and that many who had held baby Mustafa were grieving.

"The community is really distressed, because of you know how the baby is, everyone likes to cuddle babies, so everyone had some kind of connection with the baby, so everyone is quite sad and they're stressed I would say, and worried of how it happened.... So yeah, it's very uneasy atmosphere at the moment," he said.

The owner of the Te Kūiti Mosque (also known as the Te Kūiti Islamic Centre), who only wants to be known as Ali, said Mukzameel Ali was the youngest among a number of men from Fiji who came to work at the local meatworks.

He said he understood that Mukzameel Ali's uncle lived at the house with the couple, and also worked at the meatworks.

A staff member at Te Kūiti Meats told RNZ that Mukzameel Ali worked with them as a slaughterman, and was at work last week.

Police said the two flatmates were not at the family's house on Saturday when the baby was fatally injured.

Detective Inspector Graham Pitkethley earlier told RNZ that they had spoken to the parents, but that he had concerns about inconsistencies between the family's statements, and what police believe to have caused the injuries.

He said police were already investigating non-accidental injuries to Mustafa reported in October last year.

"That inquiry, and investigation, was due to be completed shortly, unfortunately before the death of Mustafa," he said.

The police wouldn't confirm whether there were inconsistencies between the statements coming from different family members.

Oranga Tamariki said it had involvement with the family prior to Saturday's incident, and is supporting police with the investigation.

Meanwhile, the Waitomo District Mayor John Robertson says there was shock and sadness across Te Kūiti.

"I think we're going through that stage of saying, we don't want to see this in our community , in any community, and you just question yourself as to whether you could've done something that might have prevented what happened to this little boy," he said.

The police are appealing for information from the public, particularly from anyone who heard screaming from the family's house on Saturday afternoon.

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