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Ruthless-Empire homicide: 'We still need justice for our baby', family says

Author
Sam Sherwood, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 30 Oct 2023, 12:10PM
Baby Ruthless-Empire died in hospital. (Photo / Ngatanahira Reremoana)
Baby Ruthless-Empire died in hospital. (Photo / Ngatanahira Reremoana)

Ruthless-Empire homicide: 'We still need justice for our baby', family says

Author
Sam Sherwood, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Mon, 30 Oct 2023, 12:10PM

The family of slain Wellington toddler Ruthless-Empire say while he is now at rest, they will not have closure until they have justice.

Whānau gathered in Taupō over the weekend, one week on from when the little boy died as a result of blunt force trauma in the Lower Hutt suburb of Taitā. Police believe he was injured up to 12 hours before he was taken to hospital unresponsive.

Ruthless-Empire, whose family asked for him to also be referred to by his maramatanga (enlightenment) name Nga Reo, would have turned 2 years old on Wednesday. Videos were posted on Facebook of loved ones releasing gold and white balloons into the sky to mark his birthday.

Ruthless-Empire’s great-aunt, Sarah Reremoana, told the Herald on Monday their “little baby” had been laid to rest and the whānau had a “beautiful day to celebrate his life”. The family also celebrated his birthday with four cakes.

“It was really saddening putting him to rest, but the sun started shining and the birds were chirping and we had the most beautiful day, it just meant so well to us to see him embraced by his family.”

However, she said there would be no closure for the family until they have an arrest and implored those with information to be “honest and truthful”.

“We can’t put this to rest... He can be at rest in peace but we still need justice for our baby.

She said Ruthless-Empire’s mother broke down on several occasions over the weekend.

“But with the support of her hapū and her iwi, she’s been embraced and looked upon as a grieving mum.”

Police earlier said one of the three persons of interest was a direct relative, and the other two were part of the wider whānau.

Toddler Ruthless-Empire died in hospital up to 12 hours after he was injured. Photo / Ngatanahira Reremoana

Toddler Ruthless-Empire died in hospital up to 12 hours after he was injured. Photo / Ngatanahira Reremoana

“At the moment we’re not doing no blaming games, just going through the grieving, a lot of healing,” Reremoana said.

She earlier told the Herald Ruthless-Empire was “an innocent young baby who has just been taken for no reason”.

Reremoana, who raised the little boy from birth until he moved to Hamilton to be with his mother in June, said the family were “broken into so many billions of pieces”.

“We have all the emotions in the world... But at this moment we know the police have done the best they can to give us this outcome of what’s happened to our baby - a murder, blunt-force trauma.”

“Our baby has suffered a lot of injuries. We’re angry but at this time our family would just like to think of our baby... we just want to be worrying about loving him and kissing him and everything for him now.”

Police have been seen at the property where Ruthless-Empire died. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Police have been seen at the property where Ruthless-Empire died. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Police launch homicide inquiry

Police have been seen at the property where Ruthless-Empire died, with a forensic tent set up in the back garden. The home had several items of furniture and baby toys on the front lawn, as well as obscenities written on the windows.

Detective Inspector Nick Pritchard said the child had multiple injuries.

“This level of violence toward a child is difficult to fathom,” Pritchard said.

A post-mortem examination revealed the toddler’s death was a result of blunt force trauma, he said.

“He was an innocent child who should’ve been safe and loved, and should not have died as he did.”

Police have spoken with the people understood to have been present when the child was injured.

Police have been engaging with Oranga Tamariki to understand the context of Ruthless-Empire’s death.

“We urge those who have information about what happened to Baby Ru to look deep, and do the right thing, and tell us what you know,” Pritchard said.

Person of interest facing violence charges

One of the three people allegedly connected to the homicide is already before the courts on multiple violence charges.

They appeared in the Hutt Valley District Court last month facing charges including common assault, aggravated assault and behaving threateningly.

There were also shoplifting charges and charges of breaching intensive supervision.

Acting National Commissioner for Corrections Sean Mason expressed condolences to Ruthless-Empire’s whānau, saying every child deserved a “safe loving home”.

A police spokesperson said inquiries were ongoing and the extensive team investigating the heartbreaking death are continuing. Photo / Mark Mitchell

A police spokesperson said inquiries were ongoing and the extensive team investigating the heartbreaking death are continuing. Photo / Mark Mitchell

“We echo police’s comment that any person with information should do the right thing and provide this information to police.

“As you are aware, this is now a homicide inquiry. We do not want to compromise what is an active Police investigation and prevent any person from being held to account for this crime.

“For this reason, it is not appropriate for us to provide further information at this stage.”

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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