19 Nov 2015

Man involved in baby kidnapping sentenced

1:41 pm on 19 November 2015

A man who helped his mentally ill partner kidnap a five-day-old baby from Middlemore Hospital has been sentenced to community work and had a curfew imposed after earlier admitting a charge of kidnapping.

Justice Woolford said Fa'atiga Manutui was in a relationship with Loni Marsh, a woman with mental illness who told him she was pregnant.

Marsh kidnapped the baby in September 2014 and was jailed for 18 months February this year.

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But Marsh actually had a stomach bloating disease and she further deceived Manutui by showing him a scan of her sister's twin boys, Justice Woolford said.

When the due date arrived in September, the couple went to Middlemore hospital where a midwife told them Marsh was not pregnant.

But Marsh said there would be a second check and Manutui went home, promising to come back when Marsh went into labour.

Just 25 minutes later Marsh called him to say she had given birth.

He later told police he was expecting twin boys only to find his partner with a pale skinned baby girl.

Manutui was also suspicious about his partner's ability to walk and did not believe the baby was a newborn.

But despite the concerns Manutui went along with Marsh's assertion because he loved and trusted her.

The next morning at 4am police were at their home where the baby was found unharmed.

Manutui was relieved to see the officers saying he had a feeling something was not right.

Manutui's lawyer Nalesoni Tupou said his client was now in a new relationship and was studying.

He said his client was very sorry for what had happened.

Mr Tupou also acknowledged his client had a previous conviction under the Civil Aviation Act when he declared to airport security that he had two bombs. The statement was a joke and Manutui was actually referring to two taro that he was carrying.

In sentencing, Justice Woolford referred to Manutui's "willful blindness" in failing to ask his partner what was going on.

He said although the baby was only missing for about eight hours, the child's parents had no way of knowing whether Manutui or Marsh had any ill intentions or if they were treating the child well.

He took into account Manutui's remorse and his early guilty plea.

Justice Woolford said Manutui had learned to trust his instincts and the need for honesty in relationships.

Fa'atiga Manutui - one of the two accused - appeared in the Manukau District Court this afternoon.

Fa'atiga Manutui in Manukau District Court September 2014. Photo: RNZ