Godmother on trial for baby's murder

Last updated 12:08 30/07/2013
Mariam Filihia

MARIAM FILIHIA: Denies murdering the child.

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A woman charged with murdering her godson had asked if she could adopt him hours before she carried his "lifeless" body into a medical centre, a court has heard.

Mariam Filihia, 33, has gone on trial in the High Court in Auckland today charged with killing Terepo "Popo" Taura-Griffiths, who died in November 2011, a week after his first birthday.

She also faces a charge of causing grievous bodily harm with reckless disregard relating to an earlier injury.

Crown prosecutor Christine Gordon told the court this morning the case against Filihia was that she "struck his head against a hard, flat surface which led to his death".

The court heard Filihia formed a "strong bond" with Popo's grandmother, Anna Taura Benioni, who lived next door in Otahuhu, South Auckland. Popo's mother, Terepai Benioni, also lived there with him and his three siblings.

Filihia, who had three children from a previous marriage, would often offer to look after Popo and it was not uncommon for him to stay with her for periods ranging from a week to months.

Gordon told the court that Popo had become a "substitute" baby for Filihia, who had unsuccessfully tried to have a child with her new husband.

She had asked his grandmother on three occassions if she could adopt Popo - the last occasion was hours before he was taken to the medical centre.

On November 4, 2011, she carried Popo into the White Cross medical centre about 9.30pm.

"His arms were limp, he was pale, unresponsive and unconscious. His condition was alarming," Gordon said.

Staff at the medical centre called an ambulance, which took the child to Middlemore Hospital.

After initial assessments, he was taken to Starship Children's Hospital early in the morning in critical condition and put on life support.

An MRI found he had suffered a skull fracture in the back of his head and a "massive" brain bleed. He also had bleeds on the surface of his brain and had extensive brain damage.

His life support was turned off on November 6, 2011.

Popo, described by his grandmother as a "chirpy, cheeky boy" who loved food, puppies, bouncing on the trampoline and a Tommee-Tippee toy he'd unwrapped days before, was unable to breathe on his own and died.

Filihia denies the child's murder.

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- Fairfax Media

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