25 Nov 2008

Grieving mother hopes baby's cries will haunt killer

7:48 pm on 25 November 2008

The mother of a baby tortured and murdered by her babysitter has faced the killer in court, telling her she hopes she will always hear the little girl's cries.

Tiana Mary-Anne Odesa Kapea pleaded guilty earlier in November to murdering 10-month-old Jyniah Te Awa in Auckland in September 2007.

On Tuesday, Justice Hansen sentenced Kapea to life in jail with a minimum non-parole period of 17 years.

The High Court in Auckland heard that Kapea admitted swinging the baby by her hair, hanging her by her T-shirt in a wardrobe, putting her in a chest freezer and attempting to choke her.

Jyniah's mother, Lisa Cassidy, told the court how Kapea's outward love and affection for her baby hid the hideous cruelty.

Ms Cassidy described how Kapea, 30, would return her little girl with lollies and smiles, explaining away any bumps and bruises as accidents.

Jyniah's family cried as the abuse was recounted, with many of them hearing the information for the first time.

Ms Cassidy told the judge that Kapea had ruined their lives when she killed their darling baby girl.

Addressing Kapea, Ms Cassidy said she hoped Jyniah's cries haunted her in her quietest moments.

Justice Hansen said the cruelty was unexplained and the reasons for it may never be known.

Mother wants answers

Ms Cassidy told Checkpoint on Tuesday she wants to know what drove Kapeta to commit murder.

Ms Cassidy told the programme Kapea befriended her while she was trying to wean her baby off breastfeeding and constantly offered to look after Jyniah.

She says her baby would return with bruises but when she confronted Kapea about it, she would be met with excuses.

Ms Cassidy says she is angry that she did not pick up on the warning signs fast enough, but that someone close to Kapea must have known the abuse was happening.

She says she is happy with Kapea's sentence.