December 10, 2023

Ruthless-Empire death: Birth of killed toddler was never registered after name rejected

Baby Ruthless-Empire died in hospital on Sunday. Photo / Vita Molyneux, Ngatanahira Reremoana

As police hunt who was responsible for the violent death of Wellington toddler Ruthless-Empire, it has emerged family never registered his birth.

The young boy known by his family as Ruthless-Empire was born almost two years ago.

But in a crime that has shocked the nation, the wee boy was killed last weekend in a level of violence the head of the police investigation has said was “difficult to fathom”.

Police have confirmed of the three people in the home at the time he suffered his injuries, one was a direct blood relative and the other two members of the extended whānau.

The Department of Internal Affairs’ registrar-general of births, deaths and marriages Russell Burnard has confirmed “Ru’s birth has not been registered”.

“This is not particularly unusual,” he said.

“New Zealand records around 60,000 live births each year, and there are around 1000 of these which might take longer to register as we work with parents on progressing the birth registration. “

Registering a birth in New Zealand is a legal requirement.

Burnard said the department encouraged parents to do that within two months of birth.

“However, there can be numerous reasons why people do not register births within that timeframe.

“Where we are aware of delays in birth registration we work with whānau to remove any barriers they may have to completing registration.”

The department would not be making any more comments.

“I believe that at this time the focus should be on Baby Ru, his sad death, and his grieving family and community.”

Stuff earlier reported it understood DIA had rejected the toddler’s name. It reported it understood discussions had occurred between Ruthless-Empire’s family about a different name.

Ruthless-Empire died in hospital on Sunday.

He had been badly injured at his Taita home about 12 hours earlier.

Yesterday, Detective Inspector Nick Pritchard confirmed his death was being treated as a homicide, and that three people of interest were being spoken to by police – all three were in the home on Poole St when Ruthless-Empire was injured.

Pritchard said the level of violence against the toddler was “difficult to fathom” and that of the three people in the home, one was a direct blood relative and the other two were members of the extended whānau.

One of the three appeared in the Hutt Valley District Court last month facing charges including common assault, aggravated assault and behaving threateningly.

There were also shoplifting charges and charges of breaching intensive supervision.

Pritchard confirmed the people in the home were known to the police and police were engaging with Oranga Tamariki to understand the context of Ruthless-Empire’s death.

“I would urge anyone with information to come forward and talk to police if they know what happened inside the property,” he said.

“We want justice.”

Sean Mason, acting national commissioner for Corrections, expressed condolences to Ruthless-Empire’s whānau, saying every child deserves a “safe loving home”.

“We echo police’s comment that any person with information should do the right thing and provide this information to police.

“As you are aware, this is now a homicide inquiry. We do not want to compromise what is an active police investigation and prevent any person from being held to account for this crime.

“For this reason, it is not appropriate for us to provide further information at this stage.”

Earlier today, Hutt City councillor Naomi Shaw told the Herald the death of the toddler had sent shockwaves through the community.

“It’s a shocking situation for the family and the child involved and you know, any community this happens in would be absolutely gutted and devastated.”

She said in times of crisis, communities often come together and that’s what she is seeing in the wake of baby Ru’s death.

“That’s the sort of community we have. Good, loving, kind, decent people.”

Neil Reid is a Napier-based senior reporter who covers general news, features and sport. He joined the Herald in 2014 and has 30 years of newsroom experience.

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