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Boy left with 50% brain function.

Harry Waites

Two year old Harry Waites has been left with just 50% of his normal brain function after having his head slammed against a wall by his mother’s boyfriend Aaron Kenneth Charles Howell, aged 22.

Stepdad ‘slams tot’s head’.

A jury deliberated for seven hours before finding a man guilty of causing a head injury to a two-year-old that left the child with 50 percent brain function. The jury in the Invercargill District Court was unable to reach a unanimous decision at the conclusion of a trial for Aaron Kenneth Charles Howell, 22, opting to deliver a majority, or 11 jurors to one, verdict yesterday.

One juror, a woman, looked visibly upset as the foreman stood and said the jury had reached their verdict of guilty on the charge of causing grievous bodily harm to Harry David Waites with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. Howell had always denied the charge. Judge Kevin Phillips remanded Howell in custody to July 28 for sentence.

Howell, who stood passively in the dock as the verdict was delivered, looked to supporters in the public gallery as he was escorted from the court and a woman mouthed “I’m sorry”. Judge Phillips thanked the jury and told jurors that, based on the evidence, their decision was the only one open to them.

The jury, 35 minutes earlier, had stopped deliberations to ask Judge Phillips whether a verdict could be reached with 11 from 12 jurors. Judge Phillips said the preference was for a unanimous decision, but given the time lapsed since they began deliberations, he would allow a majority verdict if the remaining 11 jurors were unanimous.

During the five-day trial, the jury had been told how Harry was found face down and unconscious on his bedroom floor on May 31, 2009. He was taken to Southland Hospital, where an urgent CT scan revealed a collection of blood on his brain. He was later transferred to Christchurch Hospital, where he underwent lifesaving brain surgery, and then Auckland’s Starship children’s hospital.

Howell was in a relationship with Harry’s mother, Jess Wates, at the time. In her evidence, Miss Wates told the jury the boy went to time out on May 31 because he stood too close to the television after being repeatedly told not to. Howell had walked him to his bedroom, which was the designated “naughty room”, she said.

He was gone only long enough to leave the boy in the room. A few minutes later he checked Harry, but again returned quickly, she said. A few minutes later he again checked the child. He came back carrying Harry, who was floppy and ragdollish, and blood was coming from his mouth, she said.

The Crown case was the injury was suffered at the hands of Howell. Crown solicitor Mary-Jane Thomas said Howell was angry and slammed the little boy’s head into the floor. She also said the jury could be sure something was “seriously amiss” in the household as the little boy was subjected to lengthy time-out sessions.

However, in her closing address, lawyer Sonia Vidal said the jury had to make its decision dispassionately and without sympathy or suspicion. The Crown had been unable to prove how Harry was injured and medical experts had been unable to rule out the possibility Harry’s injuries were accidental, she said.

Outside the court, Harry’s father Luke Fowler’s reaction to the verdict was short: “I’m rapt.” The verdict was the one he wanted and it was what everyone else involved had agreed was the way it should have gone, he said. The wait for an outcome in the case was nerve-racking and the longer the jury took, the more apprehensive he became.

“We were starting to wonder if something had gone wrong.” The officer in charge of the case, Detective Sergeant Dave Nelson, said he was pleased with the result. The case capped off his career with police in Southland and marked his last day on the job after about 20 years. Mr Nelson will start a job with Dunedin CIB next month.


Little Harry Waites is probably never going to ride a bike or play rugby. He may not go to mainstream school or climb trees. Running is likely to be difficult, and his speech may never be clear. Harry, who turns 4 on Monday, suffered a life-threatening head injury on May 31, 2009. He was 2.

Exactly what caused that injury is unknown but police allege it was at the hands of his then de facto stepfather Aaron Howell. The trial for Howell started on Monday and a jury returned with a guilty verdict yesterday. For the little boy’s father, Luke Fowler, the trial has been a momentary break from a life far removed from that of the parent of a normal 4-year-old.

Speaking with The Southland Times after the jury started its deliberations, Mr Fowler said his life changed irreversibly on the morning of June 1, 2009, when he was told by telephone his son was fighting for his life in Christchurch Hospital.

What followed were weeks and months of hospital treatments and bedside vigils. Harry had lost 50 per cent of his brain function as a result of the injury and his life, as he knew it, ended, Mr Fowler said. Paralysed on his right side, Harry underwent intensive rehabilitation at the Wilson Centre, spending hours every day working to regain the ability to walk.

He finally succeeded late last year, 18 months after suffering the injury. But it was not only walking which had to be relearned, Mr Fowler said. Waking from an induced coma as a virtual newborn, Harry had to relearn everything. His injury, combined with drugs fed into his system during his treatment had erased his memory of his previous life. Even his parents were unknown to him, he said.

He now lives in Dunedin with Mr Fowler. While most four-year-olds spend their days running, jumping and playing, for little Harry days are filled with appointments with the speech and language therapist, occupational therapist, physiotherapist, social worker, child psychologist, Anglican Family Care, and the Brain Association.

He attends kindy, but with a fulltime caregiver in tow, and only until noon. It is unknown whether he will go to school when he turns 5 and Mr Fowler said the future was uncertain for his son. Any knock to the head could be fatal, and he has had to be equipped with a special hospital bed, chair and table at home, and a special wheelchair-type pram. A new carseat is on its way.

Mr Fowler had to give up his job as a chef to care for his son, who requires round-the-clock care, a requirement unlikely to change through most of Harry’s life. His son’s personality changed completely after he suffered the injury, Mr Fowler said. Previously, a happy, carefree boy who loved to play outside, he was now easily frustrated by his physical limitations and his temper was quick.

But there are aspects of normality for the little family. Harry loves playing with other children and going to kindy is a highlight of his day. He loves bouncing on the trampoline bought to help his balance, and he still loves being outside.

His father is hopeful he will continue to improve but is realistic with his expectations and knows there are likely to be setbacks as Harry gets older. The pair are taking each day as it comes. “There’s no point getting too angry about anything because it’s not going to solve anything,” he said.

For now the priority is surviving Harry’s birthday party today. The little boy had made some kindy friends and the day was likely to be full of noisy children having a blast, exactly what any parent would hope for, he said.

  1. Tarsh
    August 12, 2011 at 11:39 pm

    Poor wee Harry…..the mothers name has been spelt wrong…..Waites not Wates. So glad there has been a good outcome for this on the trial case =)

  2. annoymous
    March 5, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    Jessica should be the one in prison the disgusting parent that she was, she had no care for her child, she did this to him not aaron

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