Child abuse de­tails sick­en­ing

South Waikato News - - NEWS - By FLORENCE KERR

Tyla-Ma­ree Flynn would have turned five this year.

By now she would have learned how to spell her name, to put on her own clothes and lost her first tooth.

Tyla-Ma­ree should have done all these things but for the events of June 28, 2007.

That night the 22-month-old, in the care of her mother’s part­ner Rikki Hotham, also known as Rikki Hopa, would re­ceive life threat­en­ing burns to about 20 per cent of her body.

The hor­rific de­tails of that evening were re­vealed at a coro­ner’s in­quest at Toko­roa District Court on Wed­nes­day.

The court heard that two med­i­cal ex­perts be­lieved Tyla-Ma­ree would still be alive if she had re­ceived im­me­di­ate med­i­cal treat­ment.

In­stead Tyla was put to bed where her lit­tle body went into shock, sep­sis and fi­nally hy­pother­mia set in.

It was al­most 15 hours later that the tod­dler was dis­cov­ered by her mother Lisa Bar­ron.

‘‘ Once I got up to get her changed that’s when I found her on the mat­tress curled up into a ball. She kept say­ing my name. I knew straight away that they ( burns) were bad,’’ Ms Bar­ron tear­fully told the in­quest.

At­tempts to save Tyla-Ma­ree at Toko­roa Hos­pi­tal were in vain and at 10.55am on June 29, 2007 the tod­dler would take her place along­side Nia Glassie, James Whakaruru and many more chil­dren whose lives were ended at the hands of an­other.

Hotham, the man ac­cused of her murder, would never be tried, he died in a car ac­ci­dent four months be­fore his trial.

At Wed­nes­day’s in­quest Mid­dle­more Hos­pi­tal burns unit clin­i­cal leader Dr Richard WongShe said Tyla-Ma­ree’s in­juries were most likely caused by her head be­ing forced into hot wa­ter.

He said abra­sions found at the back of the child’s head were con­sis­tent with some­one grab­bing the back of her head to force her down.

The court also had an af­fi­davit from a Syd­ney burns spe­cial­ist who had reached the same con­clu­sion. Her death was a di­rect re­sult of a de­lay in treat­ment, Dr Wong-She said and the burns, while se­ri­ous, would have been sur­viv­able with im­me­di­ate hos­pi­tal care.

The court heard Hotham had made sev­eral state­ments to po­lice claim­ing the burns were caused when one of Tyla-Ma­ree’s sib­lings turned the shower on her.

How­ever, Dr Wong-She said the burns were not con­sis­tent with be­ing burnt in a shower.

Dr Wong-She said marks found on Tyla-Ma­ree’s neck, be­hind her left knee and near her gen­i­tals were con­sis­tent with be­ing burnt by a cig­a­rette.

Toko­roa De­tec­tive Sergeant Kevan Verry who headed Op­er­a­tion Flynn said at the in­quest that two hours af­ter the burns were in­flicted on the tod­dler, Hotham would smoke mar­i­juana with a friend at the ad­dress.

‘‘By his own ad­mis­sion he was the sole care­giver when the in­jury oc­curred,’’ Mr Verry said.

The po­lice had no rea­son to be­lieve Tyla-Ma­ree’s in­juries were in­flicted by any­one other then Hotham, he said.

Mr Verry also said at the in­quest that at times 50 per cent of cases Toko­roa de­tec­tives were in­ves­ti­gat­ing were of child abuse.

Lisa Bar­ron had been liv­ing with Hotham for six weeks be­fore Tyla’s death and the evening the burns were in­flicted on her daugh­ter she had at­tended a Ko­hanga meet­ing fol­lowed by night shift at her work.

Ms Bar­ron de­scribed the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Tyla-Ma­ree and Hotham.

‘‘Tyla didn’t like him. When I came home she would grab my leg and not let go. He (Hotham) called her a sook.’’

Ms Bar­ron said she changed her daugh­ter’s nappy be­fore at­tend­ing the Ko­hanga meet­ing. She did not no­tice any cig­a­rette burns.

As for the abra­sions found on the tod­dler’s head, Ms Bar­ron said that when she brushed Ty­laMa­ree’s hair be­fore the meet­ing ‘‘she showed no signs this was caus­ing her dis­com­fort’’.

When Ms Bar­ron re­turned from her meet­ing to get ready to go to work, Tyla-Ma­ree was al­ready in bed.

Hotham did not tell Ms Bar­ron what had oc­curred un­til the early hours of June 29, at around 4.30am.

‘‘Rikki said he went out­side to hang out the wash­ing and he heard her scream­ing.’’

Hotham told Ms Bar­ron that her el­dest son had turned the shower on and burnt the tod­dler.

‘‘I asked Rikki if she was all right. I took his word that she was all right.’’ Ms Bar­ron said.

Hours later when she dis­cov­ered Tyla-Ma­ree, ‘‘I knew when I looked at her what he said to me wasn’t even true.’’

Ms Bar­ron’s mother El­iz­a­beth Bar­ron de­scribed how the death of her moko had been a ‘‘stress­ful time for the fam­ily’’ and agreed with Mr Wong-She’s as­sess­ment of Tyla-Ma­ree’s death.

‘‘ I agree with Mr Wong-She, ( Hotham) ne­glected to get our grand­daugh­ter to hos­pi­tal.’’

Coro­ner Gor­don Matenga has re­served his de­ci­sion.

Due to a print­ing er­ror a photo of Tyla-Ma­ree in­tended for page three of last week’s edi­tion did not print.

TEAR­FUL: Tyla-Ma­ree’s mother Lisa Bar­ron reads a state­ment to the coro­ner.

LOST: The coro­ner’s in­quest is in­ves­ti­gat­ing how Tyla-Ma­ree Flynn died.

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