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Curtis Brothers Get 17-1/2 Years For Nia's Murder

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Nia Glassie
Nia Glassie

Rotorua, Feb 4 NZPA - Brothers Wiremu and Michael Curtis were today slated as "extremely cruel" by a judge who jailed them for at least 17-1/2 years for the murder of Rotorua toddler Nia Glassie.

The brothers, along with three others, were convicted in the High Court at Rotorua in November after a jury heard evidence of horrific ongoing abuse and beatings which equated to torture and eventually led to three-year-old Nia's death.

Justice Judith Potter today sentenced the Curtis brothers for life with a minimum non-parole period of 17-1/2 years for Nia's murder.

Nia's mother, Lisa Kuka, 35, was sentenced to nine years for manslaughter, with no minimum parole date set.

Kuka was found guilty on two charges of manslaughter relating to a lack of protection and failure to seek medical help for her critically injured daughter.

Kuka was Wiremu Curtis's partner at the time of the abuse.

Nia died of brain injuries in Auckland's Starship Hospital on August 3 2007, two weeks after suffering what the Crown told the court were fatal kicks to the head by the Curtis brothers.

Nia's cousin Michael Pearson, 20, who did not live at the Frank St address but visited often, and Michael Curtis' partner Oriwa Kemp, 18, were found not guilty of manslaughter but were found guilty along with the Curtis brothers on various other ill-treatment charges.

Kemp was today sentenced to three years and four months jail, while Pearson was sentenced to three years.

Justice Potter today said the Curtis brothers were "extremely cruel" in their treatment of Nia.

"This was extremely cruel conduct on a child ... These two young men were old enough to appreciate what they were doing was wrong."

She also had stern words for Kuka, who she said had seriously neglected her daughter in the days and weeks leading up to her death.

She said Kuka, 35, had failed to get medical help for her for 33 hours while she lay in a coma, which was a "gross breach of trust" and of her legal duty as a parent.

"This was very serious neglect ... She was aware Nia was being abused and chose to ignore her defenceless three-year-old child. She turned a blind eye to what was happening to Nia because she was in love with Wiremu. Nia was a defenceless child," she said.

During the four-week trial the jury was told of a short life punctuated by violence and how, from an early age, Nia learned not to cry as it would only lead to further punishment.

From the opening day of the trial the impression given was of a household largely populated by youths with no sense of responsibility.

Michael Curtis' lawyer Jonathan Temm described an overcrowded and "rudderless" home in which the poverty-stricken occupants "drifted along".

It was a place where "children had children" and there were often parties and drugs, he said.

Prosecutor Fletcher Pilditch said violence was condoned by those who were supposed to be the adult figures in the house and the treatment of the toddler became "acceptable".

"Everyone fed off the behaviour of each other. They were finding it funny," Mr Pilditch said.

Kuka was the eldest but was often absent working "dawn to dusk" packing kiwifruit, leaving the unemployed brothers in charge of looking after Nia.

A young witness, who was threatened with "a hiding" if she told people what happened at the house while Kuka was away, told the court the three men "smashed" Nia every day.

"Every time she sits down to watch TV they turn it off and throw her on the floor and drop her on her head," she said.

A former neighbour said she would often stay up until well after midnight waiting for the sound of a crying child to stop.

Among other incidents of abuse, the jury heard how several people stood around laughing as Nia was thrown onto the rotary clothesline, screaming as she was spun faster and faster until she flew off, hurting her head on the ground.

And two child witnesses told of Nia being put in tumble drier and spun around with it set to hot.

"They turn it on and she goes around and blood comes out ... her head gets hot and she starts to bleed [from her nose]," one witness said.

In December the brothers' father William Curtis was also found guilty of assaulting Nia. In once instance he wrapped a scarf around her neck, pulled it tight and lifted her off the ground until her face turned purple.

He is due to be sentenced at a later date.

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