Child abuse details sickening
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.