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Whānau gather to farewell baby Ruthless-Empire, homicide investigation continues

Author
Georgina Campbell,
Publish Date
Sat, 28 Oct 2023, 4:54PM
Baby Ruthless-Empire died in hospital. (Photo / Ngatanahira Reremoana)
Baby Ruthless-Empire died in hospital. (Photo / Ngatanahira Reremoana)

Whānau gather to farewell baby Ruthless-Empire, homicide investigation continues

Author
Georgina Campbell,
Publish Date
Sat, 28 Oct 2023, 4:54PM

Family and other loved ones of slain Wellington toddler Ruthless-Empire Ahipene-Wall are gathering for a tangi as the police hunt who is responsible for his violent death continues. 

Whānau are gathering in Taupō almost 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 would have turned 2 years old on Wednesday. Videos have been posted on Facebook of loved ones releasing gold and white balloons into the sky to mark his birthday. 

A police spokesperson said on Saturday enquiries were ongoing and the extensive team investigating the heartbreaking death are continuing to speak with various family members. 

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. 

After initially treating the death as unexplained, the investigation was upgraded to a homicide inquiry on Thursday. 

Detective Inspector Nick Pritchard said the child had multiple injuries. 

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

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

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

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

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

Three adults are considered persons of interest and are known to police, Pritchard said. 

One is a direct relative and the two others are part of the extended family. 

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”. 

“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.” 

Family broken 

The child’s broken family also want those responsible to “be honest” and “do the right thing”. 

His great-aunt Sarah Reremoana told the Herald she was “numb” after hearing what happened to the little boy. 

“I probably had like 5000 decibels of a yell and a scream,” she said of the moment she found out he had suffered blunt force trauma. 

“My hands just banged the table. He was just an innocent baby that did not deserve to be treated this way.” 

She said 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.” 

Her message to those responsible was: “Do the right thing”. 

“We just want those people to walk into that place and tell the truth … we want them to be honest.” 

The toddler’s mother was struggling to cope with his death, Reremoana said. 

“She can’t even stand. She’s just as numb as us all. 

The toddler’s uncle Ngatanahira Reremoana earlier told the Herald Ruthless-Empire was a “happy and bubbly” baby who would brighten up any room with his smile. 

He described his nephew as “our soul” and said the family was absolutely devastated, having learned of his death while they were gathered in church. 

“We received this news whilst our church bells were ringing on Sunday that our Baby Ru had grown his wings and headed home to Torona o Iho [Throne of God].” 

Taitā community rallying together 

Hutt City Northern Ward Councillor Naomi Shaw told the Herald the death has shaken people. 

“It’s a shocking situation for the family and the child involved and you know, any community this happens in would be absolutely gutted and devastated.” 

She said in times of crisis, communities often came together and that’s what she was seeing in the wake of the death. 

“That’s the sort of community we have. Good, loving, kind, decent people.” 

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

Shaw could not speak highly enough of the Taitā community, saying despite their shock and heartache they would support one another. 

“I just know that that’s how it will be in the community today as they hear the news of what’s happened on the back doorstep. There’ll be overwhelming support for each other. 

“I know that that’s what they do.” 

Birth never registered after name rejected 

The Department of Internal Affairs’ registrar-general of births, deaths and marriages Russell Burnard has confirmed: “Ru’s birth has not been registered”. 

“This is not particularly unusual,” he said. 

“New Zealand records around 60,000 live births each year, and there are around 1000 of these which might take longer to register as we work with parents on progressing the birth registration.” 

Registering a birth in New Zealand is a legal requirement. 

Burnard said the department encouraged parents to do that within two months of birth. 

“However, there can be numerous reasons why people do not register births within that timeframe. 

“Where we are aware of delays in birth registration we work with whānau to remove any barriers they may have to completing registration.” 

The department would not be making any more comments. 

“I believe that at this time the focus should be on Baby Ru, his sad death, and his grieving family and community.” 

Stuff earlier reported it understood DIA had rejected the toddler’s name. It reported it understood discussions had occurred between Ruthless-Empire’s family about a different name. 

Georgina Campbell is a Wellington-based reporter who has a particular interest in local government, transport, and seismic issues. She joined the Herald in 2019 after working as a broadcast journalist. 

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