William Sio admits murdering, abusing, neglecting and ill-treating his 5-year-old son Ferro-James

A 5-year-old murdered in emergency housing in Rotorua was subjected to prolonged periods of abuse, neglect and ill-treatment before being beaten to death by his father.

William James Sio, 25, appeared in the High Court at Rotorua yesterday afternoon and entered guilty pleas to five charges, including murdering his son, Ferro-James Tiopira Sio, on February 8 last year.

He also pleaded guilty to two joint charges faced with his partner, Leza Rawiri, of ill-treating and neglecting Ferro-James, assaulting the child and failing to get medical care for his son after he stopped breathing.

Rawiri, 29, has previously pleaded guilty and will be sentenced in June.

Some of the details of Ferro-James’ suffering were revealed in the High Court yesterday, including that his father and Rawiri – who is not Ferro-James’ biological mother – made the young boy sit or stand in the corner of a room for long periods with his arms in the air and kept him in a room for prolonged periods.

He was also repeatedly assaulted, punched, kicked and pinched.

The fatal beating on February 8 last year was carried out at a Union St house where Ferro-James lived with his father and his partner in emergency housing.

The Ministry of Social Development has earlier confirmed to NZME they were living in social housing and that four adults and Ferro-James lived in one half of the property.

Sio appeared in the High Court via audiovisual link before Justice Ian Gault.

Ferro-James’ biological mother was present in the public gallery supported by a small group of people. She declined to comment to the Rotorua Daily Post.

Sio’s lawyer, Fraser Wood, said his client wanted to vacate his earlier not guilty pleas and instead plead guilty to the charges.

Justice Gault declined the Rotorua Daily Post’s application to have the summary of facts publicly released on the grounds that Wood wanted to address a couple of points in the summary with the Crown.

However, details of the charges Sio pleaded guilty to were read out in open court.

They included that Sio and Rawiri intentionally ill-treated and neglected Ferro-James, likely causing suffering to the child between September 1, 2018 and January 24, 2020 in Tauranga, Waharoa, Hamilton and Rotorua, which was a major departure of the standard of care expected by a reasonable person.

The charge said the couple made Ferro-James sit or stand in a corner with his arms up for excessive periods, slapped and hit him, kicked him, pinched his arms, pinched and bruised his ears and kept him in a room for excessive periods as well as subjected him to constant arguments between them.

The couple also engaged in conduct likely to cause suffering to Ferro-James between January 24, 2020 and February 7, 2020 in Rotorua by keeping him in a room for excessive periods, making him sit or stand with his arms up for excessive periods, assaulting him by hitting and kicking him and subjecting him to constant arguments between them.

Sio admitted assaulting his son between January 1, 2020 and January 24, 2020 by punching him in the chest and stomach area.

Sio admitted a charge of omitting to perform a legal duty which caused suffering and was a departure of the standard of care expected of a reasonable person when he failed to get medical care for Ferro-James on February 8 at Rotorua when the child stopped breathing.

Justice Gault remanded Sio in custody to reappear for sentencing on July 9.

He ordered pre-sentence reports as well as a cultural report and made a formal referral for restorative justice between Sio and Ferro-James’ biological mother, although noted Crown solicitor Amanda Gordon’s views that it was “very unlikely” the mother would want to take part.

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