Vera and Viktor Zabiyaka met their grandson Jackson for the first time only the night before he died as the result of a horrific dog attack.
Jackson, who was born on Saturday, died in Waikato Hospital more than 24 hours after he was mauled by a dog at his mother’s house in Hamilton on Sunday.
In a further tragic twist, the wee boy’s father had died several months earlier, too soon to know he was to become a dad.
In an exclusive interview with the Herald, his grandparents revealed they only learned about his birth when contacted by the boy’s mother when he was fighting for his life.
“We got a phone call about 10 o’clock on Sunday night from [Jackson’s mother’s] midwife at Waikato Hospital who advised us to go there,” Vera said.
“She told us the baby was ‘beautiful’ and a ‘good’ boy … he had been bitten but he was still alive. We didn’t even know that the baby had been born at that stage.”
On Sunday afternoon, the boy’s mum had gone to the bathroom when a dog on the property attacked Jackson; dragging him into the garden and then trying to bury him.
Emergency services rushed to the child at a house in the suburb of Enderley in Hamilton.
On Tuesday morning, police confirmed the baby had died overnight and the matter had been referred to the Coroner.
“The baby was left alone with two dogs that were in the house. [Jackson’s mother] is devastated and crushed about what’s happened,” Vera said.
His mother has shared a photo on social media of herself sitting on the grass looking towards a river. She shared a heartfelt message: “If only I could go back to this day with [you] still in my tummy, my son.” The mother-of-two ended the sentence with a sad emoji.
Close friends and family have offered their condolences and support to her.
One wrote: “I have no words, my friend. We are all trying to carry your loss for you, but I guess you won’t even feel it as the weight is so heavy.
“We love you … and we got you. Hang in there and breathe.”
Vera told the Herald Jackson’s father, Anton, who died in April from a suspected suicide, had no idea he was going to be a father.
“I think if he knew he was going to be a father he would still be here. Prison doesn’t make people better,” Vera said.
In 2016 Anton Zabiyaka smashed up hotel rooms inHamilton in a drug-fuelled frenzy. He then armed himself with a hammer and carjacked his way to Otorohanga. He was convicted and sentenced to four years in jail.
Zabiyaka, then 32, had a raft of convictions including aggravated robbery, assault, and possession of methamphetamine.
He was released in December last year.
Vera, Viktor and their two sons immigrated to New Zealand from Russia in 1997 for “a better life”.
“It is hard to accept your son is dead but as a grandmother, I cannot truly believe what has happened – this is unthinkable to lose two members of your family in a matter of months,” Vera said.
A funeral date for Jackson is yet to be decided.
The Hamilton City Council is now holding a rottweiler and another dog, thought to be a type of staffordshire terrier.
The chairman of the Dog Control Hearing Panel, councillor Ewan Wilson, said the rottweiler was registered but the other dog was not.
“We were asked to respond on behalf of the police. The animal is being held until the police complete their investigation,” Wilson said.
“If the investigation leads to charges we will continue to keep the animal secure until the decision of the court.
“If the court makes the ruling that the dogis to be destroyed then we will destroy the dog.”
Wilson said if the police choose not to lay charges the owner could surrender the dog to the council and it would be put down.
“But if the police don’t lay charges the dog owner could ask for the dog to be returned and the council’s position is we wouldn’t immediately do that.”
The council would begin its own investigation using animal control legislation.
The subject of any council investigation would be the registered owner as well as whoever was in control of the dog at the time of the attack.
Wilson couldn’t comment on which dog was responsible for the attack or the breed and registration of the other dog.
“That information is at the heart of the police investigation,” he said.
Where to get help:
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youth services: (06) 3555 906
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• Helpline: 1737
If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
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