Murder trial told of accused's apology
An Auckland woman on trial for the murder of a 3-year-old child while he was in her care in 2008 apologised to his family in hospital, a court was told yesterday.
Patricia Angela Pickering, 38, has pleaded not guilty to murdering Dylan Hohepa Tonga Rimoni, two charges of causing him grievous bodily harm, and one of assault.
Pickering, who was Dylan's caregiver, was alleged to have murdered the boy, who died in Auckland's Starship Hospital in April 2008.
The assault and grievous bodily harm charges arose from alleged incidents between December 1, 2007, and April 1, 2008.
In the High Court at Auckland yesterday, Crown prosecutor Phil Hamlin asked witness Matthew Ryan what happened at Starship Hospital on the day Dylan died.
Mr Ryan, Dylan's great uncle, said when he saw Pickering and her partner Douglas Hoeta at the hospital, she was "just staring at the ground".
He said Pickering apologised for what had happened to Dylan.
Frank Hogan, defending Pickering, asked if there was a high level of emotion at the hospital. "Were people tense, upset and crying on occasion?" Mr Ryan agreed that was the case.
Mr Ryan said he had become concerned for Dylan's welfare when he found he was sleeping in a beer crate while in the care of his birth mother Jasmine Tonga, who is his niece.
Mr Ryan said he did not speak to Ms Tonga about his concerns, but he said Dylan was possibly in an abusive environment at that time.
Mr Hogan asked Mr Ryan if Pickering and Mr Hoeta had told him they would love a child like Dylan.
He agreed, and said he had told them Dylan had been abused and neglected in the care of his niece.
Mr Ryan said he would have to talk it over with his family, and Pickering and Mr Hoeta became his caregivers.
Pickering sent Mr Ryan texts thanking him for "giving us this beautiful gift".
Mr Hoeta smoked methamphetamine on a regular basis with Mr Ryan and they were friends. He was also involved with the Black Power gang.
Mr Ryan said Mr Hoeta had told him he had been on the run from police for a couple of months, and he hadn't seen Dylan for a long time.
The court was told arguments over methamphetamine between the pair led to Mr Hoeta sending Mr Ryan a text which said he would never see Dylan again.