Nia Glassie abuse case

The Nia Glassie abuse case was a high-profile criminal investigation and subsequent murder trial concerning the abuse and death of a 3-year-old girl in Rotorua, New Zealand.

Nia Marie Glassie was a 3-year-old girl abused and eventually killed by her mother's boyfriend and his brothers. Her death caused major outrage in New Zealand, resulting in numerous media reports and causing the Prime Minister, Helen Clark, to speak out about the case.


Nia was subject to extensive physical abuse for weeks, possibly even months, before being admitted to hospital and dying of brain injuries on 3 August 2007. The court concluded that in addition to having had chunks of wood dropped on her and wrestling moves copied from a computer game practised on her, she had been kicked, beaten, slapped, jumped on, held over a burning fire, spit on, placed into a clothes dryer spinning at top heat for up to 30 minutes,[1] folded into a sofa and sat on, shoved into piles of rubbish, dragged through a sandpit half-naked, flung against a wall, dropped from a height onto the floor, and whirled rapidly on an outdoor rotary clothes line until thrown off.[2]

At the time her mother, 34-year-old Lisa Michelle Kuka, told the hospital her injuries were the result of her falling off her partner's (then 17-year-old Wiremu Te Aroha Te Whanau Curtis) shoulders. It later emerged that her central North Island family, which was celebrating a 21st birthday, waited 36 hours after the toddler lapsed into a coma on the floor before taking her to the hospital.[1] Even then Lisa continued to go out clubbing while her daughter lay dying in the hospital.[3] During the trial, a doctor told the court that if the little girl had been taken to hospital as soon as she was unconscious, she would have likely survived.[4]


After a four-week-long trial ending in November 2008 Nia's mother, Lisa Michelle Kuka, 35, was found guilty of two counts of manslaughter: one for failing to obtain medical treatment for the toddler before her death in August last year, and one for failing to protect her.[5] Lisa's partner Wiremu Curtis, 19, and his brother Michael, 22, were found guilty of murder and face sentences of life in prison. Nia's cousin Michael Pearson, 20, and Michael Curtis's partner Oriwa Kemp, 18, were found not guilty on manslaughter charges but were convicted of child cruelty. Presiding Judge Judith Potter openly wept as she delivered the sentences and after thanking equally affected shaken jurors for coping with the case went so far as to offer them counselling.[5]

William Curtis, the father of the Curtis brothers, and the first cousin of Hollywood actor Cliff Curtis,[6] also faces charges for the alleged abuse of Nia concerning an earlier alleged incident but as of November 2008 no trial date has been set for him.[7]


Nia's abuse became the subject of various campaigns against violence and cruelty to children in New Zealand.[5] Prime Minister Helen Clark said she could not believe that a child could suffer like that without anybody knowing about it and encouraged New Zealanders to report child abuse.[8] In fact many in the community blame the culture of "not wanting to nark"[5] or inform the police of domestic violence matters as one of the prime contributors to Nia's death. For example, one of the prosecution witnesses Rawhiti Simiona, a neighbour to the house where Nia suffered, told New Zealand television he regretted not calling the police when he saw the toddler being swung on the clothes line.[9]

A distinctive picture of Nia wearing white and yellow in a blue Disney themed car seat has been used to identify child-abuse related stories in the New Zealand media, with Nia literally becoming a poster-child.[10][11]

In late 2011 Nia's father's sister Matakapua Glassie was shot and seriously wounded outside Tokoroa police station by her ex partner, who was later found dead.[12][13] In 2012 Michael Pearson was sentenced to 2 months jail for a number of charges, including breaching bail.[14] In 2014, Nia's mother Lisa was paroled, but recalled on 22 August 2016. She is expected to be re-paroled in 2017.[15] Oriwa Kemp went on to have multiple children taken into care.[16]

In 2009, the song Nia was released by New Zealand singer-songwriter, Maisey Rika from her album Tohu.


  1. Cook, Stephen (29 July 2007). "Tot's injuries due to a fall, says mother". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 21 November 2008.
  2. "Child murder case shocks NZ court". BBC News. 18 November 2008. Retrieved 22 November 2008.
  3. "Toddler's sisters see torture". Fairfax New Zealand. Retrieved 12 December 2010.
  4. "Brothers guilty of murdering New Zealand toddler Nia Glassie". The Australian. Retrieved 22 November 2008.
  5. Tahana, Yvonne; Vass, Beck (19 November 2008). "Nia Glassie case: 'We've got to learn to nark'". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 22 November 2008.
  6. "Abused 3-year-old dies in hospital". The New Zealand Herald. 3 August 2007. Retrieved 22 November 2008.
  7. "Toddler Nia Glassie put in dryer before she died". The Daily Telegraph. 21 October 2008. Retrieved 22 November 2008.
  8. Rowan, Juliet; Johnston, Martin (30 July 2007). "Packed court for toddler abuse hearing". NZ Herald: New Zealand National news. Retrieved 22 November 2008.
  9. "Questions of why Nia Glassie suffered asked after guilty verdicts". NZ Herald: New Zealand National news. 18 November 2008. Retrieved 22 November 2008.
  10. "Kerre Woodham : Save our kids from toxic adults". The New Zealand Herald. 2011. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  11. Trevett, Claire (2011). "Abusive mums may be tracked through life". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  12. "Mum still critical after shooting". The New Zealand Herald. 4 December 2011. Retrieved 11 December 2011. Mata Glassie is the aunt of Nia, who died five years ago aged 3 after horrific abuse, including being shut inside a dryer which was then turned on.
  13. Howie, Cherie (11 December 2011). "Gunman's family 'lost'". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 11 December 2011. Mourners gathered in Tokoroa yesterday for the funeral of Jamie Ginns, who took his own life after shooting and seriously injuring his former partner Matakapua Glassie outside Tokoroa police station eight days ago.
  14. "Nia Glassie abuser returned to jail – Child abuse – NZ Herald News". The New Zealand Herald. 29 August 2012.
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