The family of a baby
murdered by the woman who was supposed to be caring for him say
they feel justice has been served after she was sentenced to at
least 17 years in prison.
Terepo Taura-Griffiths, or
'Popo', died from brain injuries in 2011.
Terepo Taura-Griffiths, affectionately known as Popo, was
just one year old when he received fatal head injuries at the
hands of his godmother Mariam Filihia.
Filihia, 33, was handed a life sentence with a minimum
non-parole period of 17 years by Justice Murray Gilbert in
the High Court at Auckland today on what should have been the
boy's third birthday.
In August she was found guilty of his murder, but acquitted
of a separate charge of causing grievous bodily harm to Popo
on another occasion,
"The attack to Terepo's head was so brutal that he had no
chance of surviving,'' Justice Gilbert told Filihia.
"You knew that you were likely to cause his death by doing
what you did. You then delayed getting him to medical
practitioners and then, to make matters worse, you lied about
Family members, including Popo's mother, carried pictures of
the baby and wept after the sentencing.
A spokeswoman for the family, Moeroa Asiata, read a statement
on their behalf outside of court.
"While the sentence does not bring any sense of relief or
peace for our family, it does give us a sense that justice
has been served,'' the statement said.
The family thanked the Crown, police and their extended
family for their support.
The court was told that Popo and his parents had been living
next door to Filihia and her family during 2011.
The families became close friends and Filihia sometimes
looked after Popo.
On November 4, 2011, as she was giving Popo a bath, she
became angry with the helpless baby and struck his head
against a flat surface with "significant brutality", the
Filihia initially told doctors that nothing unusual had
happened but later changed her story and said he had fallen
from a deck.
Justice Gilbert said there were no mitigating features which
could lessen the sentence he handed out.
The offending was aggravated by Popo's vulnerability and the
fact Filihia had been in a position of trust, he said.
Popo was taken to Starship Children's Hospital where an MRI
found a skull fracture in the back of his head. He had bleeds
on the surface of his brain and extensive brain damage.
He died two days later.
Justice Gilbert accepted that Filihia's actions were not
pre-meditated and she had not intended to kill the baby.
She continues to deny that she was responsible for his death.
Speaking outside court, her lawyer Mark Edgar said she was
considering an appeal.
"In her eyes, she continues to deny responsibility.''
Filihia has three children, and Mr Edgar said her family was
"absolutely shattered'' by what happened.