A South Auckland man has appeared in court charged with murdering his two-year-old stepdaughter.
Michael Martin appeared in the Manukau District Court on Friday charged with murder in relation to the death of Leilani Mary Jane Lotonu'u-Lorigan.
The 23-year-old was remanded in custody to re-appear later this month.
Leilani died on June 10 at a Housing New Zealand home she lived at with her mother, her baby sister Miami, and Martin.
Police yesterday said an ambulance was called to the Manurewa house about 5.45am and Leilani was pronounced dead.
A homicide investigation involving 15 officers was launched following an autopsy, Counties-Manukau acting crime manager Gary Hill said.
"We continue to work with other agencies, organisations and individuals in the community to help break the cycle of family violence.
"Police urge the community to report violent or abusive behaviour."
He declined to comment further on the details of the case because it was before the courts.
Leilani's great grandmother, Joyce Lorigan, described the death of her "little angel" as a needless tragedy.
She said she called Child Youth and Family about her care three months ago, but was told CYF had not managed to reach Leilani's parents.
"I was pulling my hair out trying to get them help."
Lorigan said Leilani died from septicemia from two ruptures in her bowel and passed away in her "mother's arms".
"She never made it to the hospital... she died in my granddaughter's arms. She thought the baby had a tummy bug," she said.
"It's the biggest nightmare."
Lorigan claimed it took police a month to lay charges because her 19-year-old granddaughter and Martin blamed each other.
She said her granddaughter, Leilani's mother - who has been granted name suppression - was a mess.
"She loved her little Lani.
"After Lani died my granddaughter was in a trance. She couldn't do a thing.
"I think she is going to crack up. She needs to get her life in order."
Lorigan said her granddaughter had been with Martin for about six months and fell pregnant to him almost straight away.
Miami was born three weeks prematurely in January.
Following Leilani's death Lorigan started looking after Miami but CYF removed her from her care about three days later.
"Two CYF workers and two police officers turned up here to take her away, I didn't know what to say."
Lorigan said she was told her house was deemed an "unsafe environment".
CYF northern regional director Grant Bennett said Miami was living with approved CYF caregivers.
Bennett said CYF was ''supporting the family as they go through this difficult time''.
''The death of this little girl is incredibly tragic and our thoughts and sympathies go out to those who loved her.''
Lorigan said Leilani was a "little angel".
"She had long, lovely curly hair... she was the cutest little thing and was really happy," Lorigan said.
"She was a bright wee girl."
Police urge the community to report all incidents of family violence "no matter how minor you think it is''.
Family violence can be reported to Counties Manukau police on 09 261 1300. The 24-hour family violence helpline is 0800 456 450. Victim Support can be reached on 0800victim and crime can be reported anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Do you wear a lifejacket when you are on the water - no matter what vessel you are in?