The lead detective investigating the death of a Lower Hutt toddler says police believe they know who got rid of vital evidence, but there is not enough information to charge them.
Months have passed since Ruthless-Empire Ahipene-Wall, also known as Baby Ru, was killed — just before his second birthday. He was taken to Hutt Hospital on 22 October after suffering violent injuries at his home on Poole Street, Taitā.
The police have been looking at three people of interest who were at the house at the time of the toddler’s injuries and have previously appealed for information about some missing items.
Detective Inspector Nick Pritchard said investigations into who removed a duvet cover, strap, hard drive and power backup unit were ongoing, but it was unclear whether the items had been destroyed or were being safeguarded.
“We have established who we believe is responsible. However, we’re still working through and gathering the required evidence to support a charge relating to that,” he said.
“We believe the items were disposed of by one or more of the persons of interest that were inside the house at the time.”
The case was complex, Pritchard said, and it was still too early to know when police would arrest anyone.
“A lot of information has been gathered, and the team are currently reviewing all of that material… to give us a full assessment to be able to put ourselves in a position, at some stage, with a goal of being able to charge those responsible.”
The toddler died from blunt force trauma to the head, either from a hard surface or object, Pritchard said. Police did not know what caused his injuries nor how many of the three people present were involved in inflicting them.
The police were unable to arrest the three individuals as there was not enough evidence against them, Pritchard said, and they were not obstructing the investigation – but he said none seemed to have told the whole truth.
“I believe all three have knowledge of what happened that morning.
“They don’t have to talk to the police. We have engaged with all of the persons of interest. Some have been interviewed more than others… we’re not satisfied that we have received a truthful account, a full truthful account, from anyone that was inside that property.”
Police were waiting on forensic testing results from items taken from the house and a postmortem examination. Pritchard said he could not confirm whether that included the item behind the blunt force injury.
He said police were also still trying to understand why a narrow piece of material was around the toddler’s neck when he was brought to the hospital and who put it there.
Police were still appealing for sightings of a grey-green 1994 Nissan Sentra, registration TE6972, that had been driven to and from the house three times after Baby Ru was taken to the hospital before officers arrived at the address.
Baby Ru’s family have applied to register his name as Nga Reo Te Huatahi Reremoana Ahipene-Wall, the New Zealand Herald reports. His birth was not registered as his name was rejected by the Department of Internal Affairs, the Herald reports.