A man who was found guilty of beating a 2-year-old girl to death in Weymouth during Auckland’s lockdown, leaving her covered head to toe in bruises, has been sentenced to life in prison with a minimum non-parole period of 15 years.
Before Tyson Brown stood in the dock today to hear his fate, Arapera Moana Aroha Fia’s biological father Malcolm Fia delivered a victim impact statement describing the damage the murder had wrought.
“For me, I see this as that Tyson has taken my legacy away. I will never get the chance to hold her again or to take her to her first day of school, graduating from high school, her prom, her 21st, everything,” Fia said.
Fia described the trauma of dressing his daughter’s body after it was released.
“When I finally went in the first thing I noticed was all the markings and bruises on her face. It made me more angry, it really got to me seeing her ears like they were burnt from the earlobe to the top of both her ears.
“I kept talking to her, telling her I was sorry that I wasn’t there to protect her. It was just so hard to process her not being around, I was just feeling pure anger at this point it made me feel like I wanted to inflict that pain on those who caused her injuries.”
Fia, watched by a packed public gallery and Justice David Johnstone, went on to describe how he would spend hours sitting beside his daughter’s grave, sometimes sleeping there.
“She was loved by everyone,” Fia said.
Tyson Brown, now 23, was charged with murder two weeks after Arapera was rushed to Starship Hospital from her Weymouth home on the evening of October 31, 2021.
She was unresponsive upon arrival and pronounced dead hours later, just after midnight the next day.
Brown had been in an on-again-off-again relationship with a woman living at the home where Arapera died, who continues to have name suppression as she awaits her own sentencing for manslaughter. Her relationship to Arapera remains suppressed, but her relationship to Brown is able to be reported.
Brown’s lawyer, Lester Cordwell, acknowledged the 17-year minimum non-parole period mandated for murder cases with serious aggravating factors was triggered because of Arapera’s age and vulnerability.
But Cordwell argued 17 years would be manifestly unjust. He asked Justice Johnstone for a lower non-parole period of 15 years, though he acknowledged a life sentence was inevitable.
He cited Brown’s young age – 21 at the time of the killing – and argued that just because Arapera had extensive injuries the attack was not necessarily prolonged.
“This was an attack resulting from an irrational sudden loss of self-control,” he said.
“Those injuries could very well have been caused within moments of a snapping, a loss of temper.”
He said Brown had been under immense pressure in the lead-up to killing Arapera, having just been diagnosed with Covid and with the family in a bad financial position.
A cultural report showed Brown’s upbringing left him prone to reacting in inappropriate ways to pressure.
“This is not an excuse, it’s trying to find a reason for these type of behaviours.”
Crown prosecutor Luke Radich sought a 17-year minimum non-parole period. He pushed back on Cordwell’s claims the attack was not prolonged, saying Arapera suffered literally dozens of separate injuries.
Claims of the family’s poverty were also overstated, Radich said. Photos of the house showed a full pantry and relatively pleasant living environment, the prosecutor said. Brown had wanted to isolate at his mother’s home but was required to isolate at the home he shared with Arapera and others.
Despite the pressures of lockdown and Brown’s Covid diagnosis, there were always alternatives for the family if things were getting too much for them, and many family members would have loved to receive a call asking to look after Arapera for the weekend, Radich said.
“They would have been delighted to oblige,” Radich said.
“Tragically, no one made such a call.”
Justice Johnstone, summarising Brown’s offending, said he snapped after a phone call and subjected Arapera to a forceful and brutal assault.
“Using considerable force you struck her against hard surfaces in her bedroom,” the Judge said.
The toddler suffered three distinct severe head injuries, a compression fracture to her spine and bruising over much of her body.
Justice Johnstone said Brown’s subsequent actions delayed calling emergency services and deceived others in the house. When emergency services arrived they found faint signs of life but Arapera died shortly after arriving in hospital.
Brown was transferred to a managed isolation facility in the days before he was charged. Police intercepted phone calls where he pretended his actions had not caused Arapera’s death.
When Brown shook his head in the dock during Justice Johnstone’s discussion of his deceitful phone calls, he earned a sharp rebuke from the Judge.
“Don’t shake your head. It won’t serve you,” he said
Justice Johnstone described his actions in delaying calling 111 as a “callous, selfish and manipulative” attempt to avoid blame for her injuries.
“Given her age, your attack was highly brutal.”
The Judge said the attack appeared spontaneous rather than pre-planned. Justice Johnstone acknowledged Brown had a highly unstable upbringing, witnessing extensive violence and drug use while living in poverty. He was using cannabis heavily before the murder.
Justice Johnstone said Brown’s comments to a cultural report writer showed he still did not accept he killed Arapera.
“You should,” the Judge said.
He said that Brown had not yet acknowledged his offending but it was likely that acknowledgement would come.
As a result, 17 years in prison without the chance of parole would be manifestly unjust, Justice Johnstone said.
He sentenced him to life in prison with a minimum non-parole period of 15 years.
“I love you son!” one woman called out as he was sent down.
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