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Another child death goes unpunished.

Hail-Sage McClutchie

Police say no-one will be charged over 22-month-old Hail-Sage McClutchie’s death. A quote from Desi Walker, Sage’s aunt sums it up nicely: “What is the value of a baby in New Zealand? This keeps happening again and again. I just feel numb and sad.”

Another child death goes unpunished.

For 18 months Delia Percy has waited for someone to be held to account for her granddaughter’s horrific death. As the months trickled past, the thought that one day she’d see justice served kept her going. But this week all hope faded as police sat Mrs Percy down and told her no-one will be charged over 22-month-old Hail-Sage McClutchie’s death.

The life of the “happy” Hamilton toddler was abruptly curtailed on September 27, 2009, while she was staying in Morrinsville with her mother Kelly Percy, and Ms Percy’s then-partner Adrian Wilson-Minimita. It was a visit that didn’t occur often for Sage.

From birth, she had been brought up by her grandmother in Hamilton, with her older brother Joey, who had also been taken off their mother, because Delia Percy didn’t like the environment her daughter lived in. “There was lots of drugs and alcohol, so I kept her [Sage] here,” she said.

Occasionally her daughter – who had a third child to Mr Wilson-Minimita (now in Child, Youth and Family’s care) – would take Sage for a weekend. But contact was limited. On Friday September 18, however, Kelly Percy took Sage to stay with her for the weekend.

Mrs Percy said she didn’t want the youngster to go, but her daughter was persistent. Sage was supposed to return to Hamilton the following Tuesday but never made it. Instead, on Saturday, September 26, Mrs Percy got a call from Waikato Hospital telling her to go there immediately.

She arrived to find Sage on life support. Hospital staff fought furiously through the night to save her life, but she died early the next morning from serious head injuries. Mrs Percy was there to watch the child she had cared for and loved over the past 22-months take her last breath.

For 18 months police tried everything to get to the truth of what happened in the days and hours leading up to Sage’s death. But after numerous interviews, an autopsy and expert forensic examinations both here and overseas, they have decided there is not enough evidence to prosecute over her death, or the incidents leading up to it.

Now the facts of Sage’s death remain a mystery, ultimately one that will be left for a coroner to try to unravel. The news has floored Delia Percy and Sage’s aunt Desi Walker – Kelly Percy’s sister. “Mum broke down and just cried and cried,” Mrs Walker said.

Mrs Walker was there when the police – including lead officer Detective Sergeant Rod Carpinter – broke the news. “We just sat there and thought ‘what?’. “They said unless someone admitted something, nothing was going to happen.” Kelly Percy was also there as police revealed a timeline for the days leading up to Sage’s death – including how long it took for the toddler to get the medical help she so desperately needed.

It revealed several people knew something wasn’t right with Sage in her final days, Mrs Walker said. Two days before her death, her mother and Mr Wilson-Minimita took Sage to a Morrinsville medical centre, but left before the child could be seen by a doctor, because Mr Wilson-Minimita said he needed “a feed”.

“I turned to her [Kelly] and said ‘what the hell were you fellas doing?’,” Mrs Walker said. She said her sister then broke down and said “I’m a terrible mother”. The Waikato Times has been unable to directly contact Kelly Percy or Mr Wilson-Minimita.

Mrs Walker has tried to get more information out of her sister in the hope of providing new evidence, but she has had no luck. At the very least, Mrs Walker feels those who knew Sage was unwell should be charged with failure to provide the necessities of life. “Do I think they should be charged? Yes. Do I think the charges would stick? No. You have to be able to prove it.”

She likened Sage’s death to the Kahui twins death in 2006. Their father, Chris Kahui, was charged with their murders, but was found not guilty at trial. No one has yet been charged over that double killing. “What is the value of a baby in New Zealand? This keeps happening again and again. I just feel numb and sad.”

Mr Carpinter treated Sage’s death as a murder investigation from early on, and was present at the autopsy when Sage’s injuries were described as being of a “non-accidental nature”. But as much as he wanted to put someone behind bars for Sage’s death, he was not prepared to “turn the key” unless he was sure they did it.

Waikato district crime services manager, Detective Inspector Chris Page, said the investigation had not conclusively shown that criminal offending had caused or contributed to Sage’s death. However, Mr Page said they would continue to work with all parties involved so they could discover what really occurred and help bring the family closure.

‘MY SON NOT TO BLAME’ The mother of a man at the centre of the police investigation into Hail-Sage McClutchie’s death says her son would never harm a child. For 18 months the Morrinsville-based Wilsons have kept quiet  shying away from talking to the Waikato Times about Sage’s death.

But yesterday, after hearing no-one would be charged, grandmother Elizabeth Wilson finally spoke out. Her son, Adrian Wilson-Minimita, 22, was the partner of Sage’s mother, Kelly Percy, and was with the toddler in the days leading up to her death. But Mrs Wilson is adamant her son had nothing to do with the injuries that caused Sage’s death.

“You should see my son with children – he’s closer to them than he is to adults,” she said. She said the finger was being pointed at Mr Wilson-Minimita simply because he was Sage’s step-father. “Anyone that knows my son knows he’s a naughty boy – but that’s not him [someone that hurts a child].

“I firmly believe that my son has declared, to the best of his ability, what is the truth to the police. He has never misled anyone – we have never hidden from anything.” That included that Sage fell while playing at a playground. Mrs Wilson said “in no way, shape or form” did her son hurt Sage.

“I want answers as much as you do. Baby needs to be laid to rest … her soul can’t rest until then. However, I don’t have the answers.” Mrs Wilson said the past 18 months had been like one big nightmare. Her son had a child to Kelly – Selwyn – who was taken into Child, Youth and Family care after Sage’s death.

While Mrs Wilson didn’t want to comment specifically on whether she was trying to gain full custody of Selwyn, she said the finger of blame had also affected her. “I’m the grandmother of Selwyn and I’ve done nothing wrong, yet I’ve been subject to being a perpetrator as well.

“Hopefully one day we’ll have answers – the correct answers. Sage was such a beautiful girl – no child deserves that. She was one of those children that spoke with her eyes.”

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