Trying to make Moko’s death count for something

Just before rising from the judge’s bench, Coroner Wallace Bain paused.

“To Moko’s mum at the back of the court, our sympathies to you again.

“I hope this is…I know you’ve lost your little boy but as a result of this inquest I hope it will help other little children being lost.”

The closing remarks were a touch of humanity after three days of dark, sometimes detached evidence, as lawyers and professionals analysed the life and death of Moko Rangitoheriri from every angle.

The wider ills of society, the dysfunctional home Moko lived in, the horrendous list of injuries which killed him, and the many missed opportunities to save the 3-year-old.

On hearing the gentle words from the coroner, Dally-Paki smiled sadly, nodded and mouthed “thank you”.

For while the hearing was about a little boy, the evidence was about two young mothers.

Nicola Dally-Paki and Tania Shailer, one of Moko’s killers, were struggling to cope. But the warning signs were either “missed, misinterpreted, or minimised”, in the words of Judge Andrew Becroft, the Children’s Commissioner.

Dally-Paki trusted Tania Shailer; they had been friends for 15 years.

Shailer was also a trained early childhood teacher, so Dally-Paki thought her children were in good hands.

But like Dally-Paki, Shailer was struggling to cope.

She had four children of her own – aged 7, 5, 4 and 2 – to take care of and was battling worsening depression.

While ultimate responsibility for Moko’s death lay with Shailer and her partner David Haerewa, Judge Becroft pointed out “considerable responsibility” for the agencies working with her.

They were the Maori Women’s Refuge, Family Works and REAP, which held the contract for the Family Start home visit service, as well as Child Youth & Family.

While Shailer was skilful in hiding what was happening in her home, Judge Becroft said she dropped a number of worrying comments which properly skilled professionals should have picked up on.

These “red flags” included her statements about her depression worsening and struggling with two extra children, as well as coping with Moko’s behaviour.

Despite some professionals actually visiting the house, they did not query why Moko was spending long amounts of time in his room or ask to see him.

Everyone involved in working with children – not just Oranga Tamariki staff – needed to be properly trained so they can pick up on the danger signs, said Judge Becroft.

“All of the community agencies involved knew the household was under stress and that Tania Shailer had mental health problems and a history of family violence,” said Judge Becroft.

“Sadly, none of them thought to check on Moko’s wellbeing.”



– Jarad Savage, NZ Herald

Do you want:

  • Ad-free access?
  • Access to our very popular daily crossword?
  • Access to daily sudoku?
  • Access to Incite Politics magazine articles?
  • Access to podcasts?
  • Access to political polls?

Our subscribers’ financial support is the reason why we have been able to offer our latest service; Audio blogs. 

Click Here  to support us and watch the number of services grow.

As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.