Page last updated at 10:06 GMT, Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Child murder case shocks NZ court

Two New Zealand men have been convicted of murdering a three-year old girl, after months of torturing the child.

Wiremu Curtis, 19, and his brother Michael, 22, face life sentences for the murder of Nia Glassie.

Nia died of brain injuries in hospital on 3 August 2007, two weeks after suffering fatal kicks to her head.

The judge in the four-week trial, Judith Potter, wept as she delivered the sentence and thanked similarly shaken jurors for coping with the case.

That they didn't speak out in time is something family members and neighbours will have to live with
Cindy Kiro
Children's commissioner

Nia's mother, Lisa Kuka, 35, who was in a relationship with Wiremu Curtis, was found guilty of manslaughter for failing to protect her child.

Nia's cousin Michael Pearson, 20, and Michael Curtis's partner Oriwa Kemp, 18, were found not guilty of manslaughter but were found guilty of child cruelty charges in the complex case.

New Zealand's Children's Commissioner Cindy Kiro told local media that there had been some consolation for the toddler's tragic death in the fact that justice had been served.

Catalogue of abuse

The court heard details of horrific abuse inflicted on the three-year old:

• She had been kicked, beaten, slapped, jumped on and held over a burning fire

• She had been put into a clothes dryer spinning at top heat

• Wrestling moves copied from a computer game had been practised on her

• She had been folded into a sofa and sat on, shoved into piles of rubbish, dragged through a sandpit half naked, flung against a wall and dropped from a height onto the floor

• And she had been whirled rapidly on an outdoor rotary clothes line until she was thrown off.

At one point, she was left lying unconscious for 36 hours without medical attention.

'Wider guilt'

Neighbours who saw some of the abuse have told reporters they will live with the guilt of not having informed the authorities sooner.

Court officials said they had been shocked at how some witnesses found the level of violence in the home to be normal.

Prosecutor Fletcher Pilditch said investigators could find no obvious motive for the abuse other than bullying.

"She was bullied in the worst kind of way. She was singled out, for what reason we do not know," he said.

"Both family members and neighbours were aware of the neglect and abuse Nia was subject to," Children's Commissioner Ms Kiro said in a statement.

"That they didn't speak out in time is something they will have to live with."

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