More than three months after Lower Hutt toddler Baby Ru died after suffering blunt force trauma, the officer in charge of the investigation has revealed new details about the investigation into his death as police continue to try to bring his whānau closure. Herald senior crime reporter Sam Sherwood reports.
The officer in charge of the investigation into the killing of toddler Baby Ru, says police are confident one person inflicted his fatal injuries but that none of the three people in the house have given “a full truthful account”.
On October 22, Ruthless-Empire Souljah Reign Rhind Shephard Wall died after arriving at Hutt Hospital unresponsive with severe head injuries.
The toddler, now known as Nga Reo Te Huatahi Reremoana Ahipene-Wall, was living at a home in the Lower Hutt suburb of Taitā with his mother, Storm Wall, and Rosie Morunga and her partner Dylan Ross.
More than three months have passed since Nga Reo - also known as Baby Ru - died, and no charges have been laid.
Today, the officer in charge of the investigation, Detective Inspector Nick Pritchard, spoke in-depth to the Herald about the inquiry.
He said there was still a dedicated team working fulltime on the investigation. A significant amount of information had been obtained that police were working through and reviewing to assess for relevance as well as ongoing inquiry work.
Detective Inspector Nick Pritchard has spoken with the Herald about the investigation into the death of Baby Ru. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Police were also waiting on forensic analysis of exhibits that had been sent to ESR.
Pritchard revealed police had recently met with the Wellington Crown prosecutor about the direction they’re heading both in terms of the homicide investigation and the disposal of evidence after Baby Ru was taken to hospital.
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He said police were not ruling out Baby Ru’s death being accidental.
“We’re not defaulting it as a murder or manslaughter at this stage. We’ve got injuries that are consistent with blunt force trauma - fractured skull, which would take some force. I don’t have any definitive answer on the mechanism of what’s caused that other than the head would have to have come into contact with a hard surface, or hard object.”
Police earlier said at least one person returned to the Taita house where Ru suffered his injuries to clean up the crime scene and remove crucial evidence, even as Ru lay dead in hospital.
One piece of evidence they say was removed is a hard drive that recorded CCTV footage from a camera set up inside the house.
The Poole St house in Taita, Lower Hutt, where baby Ruthless-Empire Souljah Reign Rhind Shepherd Wall lived. Inset, from left: Storm Wall (Ru's mum), Rosie Morunga and Dylan Ross.
Pritchard said police had “strong evidence in terms of who we believe was responsible” in terms of returning and disposing of items.
“We know that that camera system was operating at the time from inquiries we’ve made and evidence we’ve established and that it was removed between Baby Ru being taken to hospital and police being notified and being in a position to take control of the house.”
All of the items were still missing from the home, and police had carried out a “significant number of search warrants” looking for them including at residential properties and some outdoor “bush-type” areas.
Pritchard said police had not been able to rule any of the three persons of interest in or out of the investigation to date.
“We’d really like to hear from them again. We really want them to come forward and be open with us in terms of what exactly happened that morning,” he said.
“They’ve all provided accounts, some more comprehensive than others, and from what we know, we’re not satisfied that we have got a full truthful account from any of those individuals at this stage.”
This piece of fabric was allegedly found wrapped around Baby Ru's neck when he arrived at hospital.
In December, the Herald interviewed Wall for a second time. During the interview, she gave a new account of how her son had suffered his injuries and said she saw the incident.
Pritchard said when there were multiple persons of interest putting blame on others, that account had to be corroborated to reach the required threshold to charge someone.
“That’s either through independent witnesses or it could be through CCTV footage or some other means. It does really need strong corroboration to be able to advance things further,” he said.
“Some have been interviewed a lot more than others and we haven’t had a consistent account which we can corroborate from any person of interest.”
The investigation team had been able to build a “fairly tight timeframe” in terms of when the injuries were believed to have been inflicted as well as when people went to and from the property to hospital.
Baby Ru's family kept a spot for him at the table on Christmas Day. Photo / Ngatanahira Reremoana
The Herald earlier revealed a piece of fabric was allegedly wrapped around Baby Ru’s neck when he arrived at the hospital.
Pritchard said it was still unclear why the fabric was there.
“We haven’t had a truthful account that can be corroborated in terms of who put that item there or what its purpose was.
“It’s disturbing … an item like that around a young child’s neck is concerning.”
Pritchard said the team was dedicated to bring “justice and closure” for Baby Ru’s family and friends.
“We’re still reviewing quite a large volume of information for relevance, and as we go through that material there could be things that then generate further lines of inquiry so it’s hard to know timeframes but cases like this could go on for quite some time before resolution.
“We’d love for someone to come forward and tell us what happened.”
Police believe the people seen using a grey-green 1994 Nissan Sentra, registration TE6972, were responsible for disposing evidence.
The Nissan travelled to and from the Poole St address three times after Ru was taken to hospital and before police were able to secure the scene.
Police have also appealed for information on a Provision-ISR NVR5-8200PX+ DRV unit, an Eaton 5E UPS 650VA/360W power back-up unit, and 2 x NZ Outlets as well as a swatch of duvet cover.
Sam Sherwood is a Christchurch-based reporter who covers crime. He is a senior journalist who joined the Herald in 2022 and has worked as a journalist for 10 years.
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