Father of severely injured boy goes into hiding

The boy is still recovering in Starship Hospital. Photo: RNZ
The boy is still recovering in Starship Hospital. Photo: RNZ
A father has gone into hiding after being threatened in the aftermath of his son being admitted to Starship Hospital with severe head injuries, relatives say.

Three weeks ago, police found the four-year-old in the Hastings suburb of Flaxmere with severe brain damage and other extensive injuries.

Two of the man's brothers - the young boy's uncles - say they don't know how the boy was hurt but just want the truth, which may come from the boy himself.

Speaking to RNZ outside their South Auckland home, Jerry and Cade said he's making some progress in hospital, although he will be permanently disabled.

"He's talking to the nurses, talks to my nan, and little brothers. He's actually recovering very [well]," Jerry said.

They said this was the second head injury the boy had had recently. Last year, they said, he fell from a bouncy castle on to concrete at a birthday party in Hawke's Bay.

They say Oranga Tamariki was then involved, and the boy went to live in Auckland with his paternal grandparents. A few months later he went back to Flaxmere, they said.

Then three weeks ago, on January 29, the boy was found with severe brain damage and extensive injuries to his body.

He's now in Auckland's Starship Hospital. No one has been arrested.

The injuries sparked a large response from an upset community in Hawke's Bay. A couple of hundred people met in Flaxmere to stand hand in hand against child abuse, and to say karakia for the boy.

People from the Flaxmere community gathered at a local park for a karakia for the boy. Photo: RNZ
People from the Flaxmere community gathered at a local park for a karakia for the boy. Photo: RNZ
It's also brought out angry threats of vigilante justice. Jerry and Cade said the boy's father has fled for his safety.

"He's hiding away from people because there are [too many] lies on Facebook. Facebook's spreading too [many] rumours."

They said their brother has told them nothing about what happened, but did say he was at work at the time the injuries happened.

Police have said they've been unable to garner what they believe is critical information from the people in the house at the time, and say there's more to the story than they've been told.

Don't know what happened

Jerry and Cade said three weeks on they still don't know what happened to the pre-schooler.

"Lots of people are trying to figure out what's happened to him. Because no one has told us what really happened. Some people think he has been beaten up.

"All I can say is we can only wait on the results from the hospital. That's the only way everyone's going to know if he's been bashed."

The police said there were some family members with the boy that day. The uncles said people must know what happened.

"Someone would have seen what happened, and someone has to bring the truth out. He's never on his own."

But, in the absence of any adult speaking out, the boy might be able to tell his story one day.

"The only way we're going to figure this out is if we ask my nephew himself when he recovers... He's an honest kid, and he'll tell anyone what happened."

Police said they're making progress with their investigation, and are still trying to work out how the boy was injured.

They are encouraging anyone who has any knowledge of the case to come forward. They're also asking people not to speculate or take any action which might hinder their inquiry.

Oranga Tamariki have previously said they could not comment on the case due to the ongoing police investigation, but said they were continuing to work with the whānau to offer support and were working with other professionals in Hawke's Bay.