Death was ‘pre­ventable’

South Waikato News - - FRONT PAGE - By FLORENCE KERR

Rikki Hotham caused the death of Tyla-Ma­ree Flynn by fail­ing to seek im­me­di­ate med­i­cal at­ten­tion for her, a coro­ner’s has found.

The find­ings come al­most four years af­ter the 22-month old died af­ter re­ceiv­ing se­vere burns.

Coro­ner Gor­don Matenga was un­able to rule on what had caused the burns though he did find Hotham was the only adult home when the child was in­jured.

At the coro­ner’s in­quest last month, tran­scripts of po­lice in­ter­views with Hotham were read out where Hotham told po­lice that the tod­dler was burnt in the shower.

Mid­dle­more Hos­pi­tal burns unit clin­i­cal leader Dr Richard Wong-She told the in­quest burns to Tyla-Ma­ree were not con­sis­tent with burns sus­tained from a shower.

Dr Wong-She be­lieved the ev­i­dence showed Tyla-Ma­ree was forced face-down into hot liq­uid.

The doc­tor also said burns con­sis­tent with cig­a­rette marks were found on the tod­dler’s gen­i­tals, in­ner knee and neck.

Coro­ner Gor­don Matenga found that al­though the burns in­flicted on the tot were not con­sis­tent with be­ing burnt in the shower, he could not find that Hotham had in­deed caused the burns.

‘‘The ex­pla­na­tion by Dr WongShe does give a pos­si­ble ex­pla­na­tion for the in­juries seen at post mortem but there is no other phys­i­cal ev­i­dence upon which I can rely to make a find­ing that Rikki Hotham did in fact forcibly hold Tyla-Ma­ree’s head in a con­tainer of hot liq­uid.

‘‘ There is also no ev­i­dence (other than the phys­i­cal in­juries to Tyla-Ma­ree) upon which I could base a find­ing that Rikki Hotham used a cig­a­rette to burn Tyla Ma­ree. Whilst the cir­cum­stances may be sus­pi­cious, sus­pi­cion is not enough.’’

Coro­ner Matenga found that Hotham did cause Tyla’s death by ‘‘fail­ing to seek im­me­di­ate med­i­cal at­ten­tion for her’’.

‘‘ Rikki Hotham did not take im­me­di­ate steps to seek med­i­cal at­ten­tion. In­stead, he down­played the in­ci­dent, de­lay­ing telling Lisa ( Bar­ron, Tyla-Ma­ree’s mother) and then de­scrib­ing only a small and mi­nor burn to the ear.

‘‘I am sat­is­fied on the ev­i­dence be­fore me, that the in­juries would have been ob­vi­ous to Mr Hotham.

‘‘He failed to pro­tect her from be­ing scalded by hot liq­uid and then failed to ar­range for her to re­ceive im­me­di­ate med­i­cal at­ten­tion.’’

Rikki Hotham’s fa­ther, Mark Hotham in a let­ter to the coro­ner, expressed his sym­pa­thy for Tyla- Ma­ree’s fam­ily and his own grief at the loss of his son.

Mr Hotham ac­cepted that his son had made some, ‘‘very bad de­ci­sions while in a panic that cost baby Tyla her young life.’’ How­ever Mr Hotham was hav­ing dif­fi­culty rec­on­cil­ing in his own mind, that his son would ever wil­fully harm a child, said the coro­ner.

Hotham, also known as Rikki Hopa, died in 2008 while await­ing trial for Tyla-Ma­ree’s death.

Driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence of al­co­hol, in his ve­hi­cle, he crossed the cen­tre line col­lid­ing head on and killing Auck­land mother of one An­gela El­iza Wool­ley, on State High­way 1 north of Toko­roa.

Lisa Bar­ron said af­ter the in­quest that while she didn’t hate Hotham she did blame him for Tyla-Ma­ree’s death.

‘‘I’m an­gry at the fact he didn’t take her to hos­pi­tal.’’

SAD END: The coro­ner has ruled the death of tod­dler Tyla-Ma­ree Flynn, left, could have been pre­vented if the burns she suf­fered at her home were treated in time. Her mother Lisa Bar­ron and De­tec­tive Sergeant Kevan Verry give ev­i­dence at her in­quest.

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