Med­i­cal ev­i­dence re­sults in cold case mur­der charge

Rotorua Daily Post - - OUR PEOPLE - Jared Sav­age

A man has been charged with mur­der just weeks af­ter po­lice re­opened a cold in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the death of a baby twin.

Kar­los Stephens was just 10 months old when he died in Ro­torua Hos­pi­tal in Novem­ber 2014 and the se­nior de­tec­tive lead­ing the in­quiry said the ex­pla­na­tion for his in­juries was “vague”.

The cold case is sim­i­lar to one of New Zealand’s most in­fa­mous child-abuse cases — the deaths of the Kahui twins in 2006 — in that only a small num­ber of adults were in the house with Kar­los and his twin brother in the days lead­ing to his sus­pi­cious death.

“We’ve never been to­tally happy with the ver­sion of events we’ve been given,” De­tec­tive Se­nior Sergeant Lind­say Pil­brow told the Her­ald three weeks ago.

De­tec­tive In­spec­tor Mark Loper con­firmed a 59-year-old man had been charged with mur­der and ap­peared in the Ro­torua Dis­trict Court yesterday.

The man, whose name was sup­pressed, was re­manded in cus­tody with­out plea.

He could not com­ment fur­ther as the mat­ter was be­fore the courts.

But in a pre­vi­ous in­ter­view, Pil­brow said new med­i­cal opin­ions from ex­perts in Scot­land and Aus­tralia, re­viewed by oth­ers in New Zealand, gave the in­ves­ti­ga­tion team more cer­tainty the in­juries suf­fered by Kar­los were not ac­ci­den­tal.

Pil­brow would not be drawn on the ex­act na­ture of the in­juries — or what pos­si­bly caused them — other than to say Kar­los suf­fered “sig­nif­i­cant” head in­juries.

Kar­los and his twin brother were liv­ing with ex­tended fam­ily at the time of his death on Novem­ber 30, 2014.

Those care­givers were not home in the days when the in­juries were likely to have been in­flicted and had been co-op­er­a­tive with po­lice, said Pil­brow.

But the se­vere na­ture of Kar­los’ in­juries did not match with the ex­pla­na­tions given by the adults liv­ing in the house, which Pil­brow de­scribed as vague.

“The ex­pla­na­tion would be . . . there’s a lack of ex­pla­na­tion,” said Pil­brow.

“There’s a lack of ex­pla­na­tion from a small num­ber of spe­cific peo­ple who had care of these young chil­dren around the events of the week­end, the night be­fore, and how this young baby could have re­ceived these in­juries.”

Pil­brow urged any­one with knowl­edge of what hap­pened to tell the po­lice.

“Baby Kar­los isn’t here now to speak for him­self. There are peo­ple who know what hap­pened and they need to step for­ward.”

Bay of Plenty has one of the worst rates of child abuse in New Zealand.

“This is yet an­other case of a young child who has, on the face of it re­ceived sig­nif­i­cant in­juries, which has led to his death,” he said.

“I think it’s im­por­tant peo­ple be very vig­i­lant as to what’s go­ing on in fam­ily and friends’ homes. ”

New Zealand has one of the worst rates of child abuse in the de­vel­oped world.

The ac­tual num­bers of child homi­cides can vary, de­pend­ing on source, as in­ves­ti­ga­tions into sus­pi­cious deaths can take months or even years to fi­nalise.

But data re­leased this week shows 82 chil­dren younger than 5 were vic­tims of mur­der or man­slaugh­ter be­tween 2007 and 2016 — or 12 per cent of all homi­cides over the time pe­riod.

PHOTO / SUP­PLIED

Kar­los Stephens died when he was just 10 months old.

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