Delcelia Witika
1989 - March 21, 1991
Find A Grave Memorial
On March 21, 1991, New Zealand authorities received a phone call from  a woman who stated that she had just returned home to find her two year old daughter dead. Claiming she had been away for a couple of hours, Tania Witika, the mother of the child, called from a video store.

The ambulance driver, Martin Smith, found a child laying dead in the fetal position. Delcelia Witika was laying on a piece of filthy plastic which was on her bed. On her bottom, feet and hands were what appeared to be scars from having been burned.

Delcelia had bruises over much of the rest of her body and was terribly emaciated. Martin asked Eddie Smith about the burns and was told that Delcelia had fallen into a hot bath a few weeks earlier and that Eddie had not taken her to the hospital to have the burns treated.

The police were initially going to charge only Eddie Smith and Tania Witika was to be a witness against him. Later, it was determined that Tania was guilty of not taking Delcelia for proper medical treatment. Tania clammed that Eddie had been beating her as well as abusing Delcelia, that when she tried to help Delcelia, he would beat her.

Crime scene photos have proven this to be one of the worst cases of child abuse ever. Delcelia was used as a punching bag, her blood was splattered throughout the house on carpets and walls. 


There was a pool of blood on the plastic that
replaced sheets and a blanket on Delcelia's bed. Proof that she had vomited during her final night was found dripping down the bed post. Delcelia's neck showed signs of having been scratched, her mouth was in terrible shape with some of her teeth having been smashed and upper lip having been torn away from her gums and she had scars on her scalp where the hair had been pulled completely out.

On the night that Delcelia died, Tania claimed that Eddie had held a knife to her throat and threatened to kill her if she did not go to a party with him. A video provided as testimony later showed that Tania was partying and having a good time with Eddie at this party while her daughter lay at home, dying.

As the investigation went on, charges were increased to include the willful mistreatment of Delcelia from the months of July 1990 to the  month of October 1990 causing unnecessary suffering, failing to provide proper, needed medical care for the burns which were discovered to have been the result of placing Delcelia into hot water, murder and manslaughter.

At first, Tania told the police that she alone was responsible for the death of her daughter. After finding out that Delcelia had suffered through massive sexual abuse, she said that Eddie was the one who had been responsible for most of the injuries. Tania pleaded not guilty to all charges stating that she suffered from Battered-Woman's- Syndrome" at the hands of Eddie Smith. Eddie blamed everything on Tania. Eddie Smith pleaded guilty to the first three charges but had the nerve to plead not guilty to the others. 

During the trial, Pathologist Jane Vuleic revealed that Delcelia had died of Peritonitus which was caused by the blows she took to her abdomen during the abuse she suffered. Jane Vuleic also stated that Delcelia suffered from severe malnutrition, burns to 15 percent of her body, a broken jaw and many other injuries.

The Pathologist at the trial, Jane Vuletic told the court that Delcelia died of peritonitis caused by blows to her abdomen. She said Delcelia also suffered from severe malnutrition, a broken jaw, and burns to 15 per cent of her body and many other injuries.

In December of 1991, Eddie Smith and Tania Witika, were each  sentenced to ONLY 16 years for the torture, abuse and death of Delcelia. A very small price to pay for the life of a child!

Both were sentenced to 16-year prison terms. Neither would serve their full sentence. Tania served only 2/3 of her sentence, Eddie would not serve much more. Tania was paroled in September of 2002 and Eddie in February of 2003. Delcelia was only able to be paroled in death!

Father's fury over killer's release
October 14, 2004

The father of a toddler killed more than a decade ago is angry that he wasn't told her killer had been released and was living in his neighborhood.

Eddie Smith served 10 years for the manslaughter of Delcelia Witika and was freed two years ago.

The Corrections Department says it did its job.

Delcelia's face and story will always be remembered as one of New Zealand's worst cases of child abuse.

Smith and his partner, Delcelia's mother Tania Witika, were convicted in 1992 of her violent death. They served two-thirds of their sentences for manslaughter.

Just days ago, Delcelia's father Peter Lafaele found out that Smith had been quietly released two years ago and was living a few kilometres away.

'I was outraged...there was no feeling that can express how angry I was," said Lafaele.

"He was pretty much 15 minutes away...and I've got a lot of friends and family that work that way... it was lucky I didn't bang into the fellah."

Smith was arrested in South Auckland and charged with arson last week. He will be back before the courts early next year and has since been freed on bail.

Lafaele wants an explanation about why he wasn't told of Smith's release.

"He took a big part of my life and he's still taking a big part of my life...I'm not going to rest till I see justice to him."

The Corrections Department has a victims notification system where victims of crime can apply to be told when someone is released from jail. But Corrections says in this case there were no registered victims so there was no one for the department to tell that Smith had been set free.

Update:

In April of 2003, Tania Witika decided that she wanted to be a social worker and work with young victims of domestic violence, going as far as to quit her job in order to do so. New Zealand Social Services Minister, Steve Maharey has doubts that Tania will ever get to work with domestic violence victims. 

While no one is able to stop Tania from applying for a job with any Social Service Agency, Maharey says it would be extraordinary if she got front line work. He compared this scenario to that of a doctor having been convicted of murder, able to practice again, saying: 

"I can't imagine it happening. I just can't imagine anybody in their right mind hiring her. 
Who would take the risk of the public disapproval around that?" 

National's social services spokeswoman, Katherine Rich had this to
say about it"

"It would be a major leap of faith for an employer to offer her a significant position as a 
social worker. Horrendous life experiences don't necessarily train a person to deal 
with other horrendous life experiences." 

Update:

In 2005, Tania married and in 2008 she had another baby. Custody of the baby was taken by Child, Youth and Family before it was even born. The baby and Tania were under 24 hour supervision after the birth. The baby was allowed to go home with the father while Tania would have to undergo psychological assessment and would have to prove to CYF that she was a fit parent. Tania, who now goes by the last name of Hopping, had no comment about the situation.

Death occurred in New Zealand

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