Troy Taylor murder trial: Ihaka Stokes had historical broken bones when he died

Christchurch's Ihaka Stokes was just 14 months old when he died.
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Christchurch's Ihaka Stokes was just 14 months old when he died.

Ihaka Stokes suffered two broken bones at least a week before he was beaten to death, a court has heard.

The 14-month-old boy was rushed to Christchurch Hospital on the night of July 3, 2015, where he died of massive head injuries.

Troy Taylor, the former partner of Ihaka's mother Mikala Stokes, is on trial in the High Court in Christchurch for murdering and assaulting Ihaka. He has pleaded not guilty.

Troy Taylor has pleaded not guilty to the murder and assault of Ihaka Stokes.
FAIRFAX NZ

Troy Taylor has pleaded not guilty to the murder and assault of Ihaka Stokes.

Ihaka was found to have suffered 59 separate injuries. Post mortem scans identified a number of broken bones, including both shoulder blades, his left forearm and several vertebrae. The prosecution and defence agree Ihaka's injuries were "non-accidental".

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Defence places blame for death

Paediatric radiologist Philippa Depree​ told the court the shoulder blade and forearm breaks happened within a week of Ihaka's death. Vertebrae breaks were hard to date, but two other broken bones, a rib and a right hand bone, showed signs of new bone formation, which indicated healing. That meant the injuries were at least a week, and up to several months, old, Depree said. The rib injury, in particular, was unlikely to be accidental, she said.

Mikala Stokes and Troy Taylor together at Ihaka's funeral in 2015.
FAIRFAX NZ

Mikala Stokes and Troy Taylor together at Ihaka's funeral in 2015.

"[It] is a highly suspicious injury for inflicted trauma and is unlikely to have occurred from any other cause in the absence of a history of prior trauma.

"The pattern of findings . . . in conjunction with the history provided to me leads me to believe that the injuries were most likely caused by inflicted trauma."

Ihaka's broken shoulder blades had a "high specificity" of inflicted rather than accidental trauma, Depree said. Questioned by Justice Cameron Mander, she said that injury would have been "extremely painful".

Ihaka's mother Mikala Stokes leaves the High Court at Christchurch.
IAIN McGREGOR/FAIRFAX NZ

Ihaka's mother Mikala Stokes leaves the High Court at Christchurch.

"These are uncommon and they're seen with high-energy trauma such as high-speed motor vehicle accidents, direct blows to the back."

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Earlier, the court heard that blood was found on the wall, curtains and window frame of Ihaka's bedroom.

Forensic scientist Gary Gillespie told the court he examined every room of the house where Taylor, Stokes and Ihaka lived, and numerous items found inside as part of the police investigation.

In Ihaka's bedroom, two blood stains were found on a window frame behind the cot, three on the nearby curtain and one on the wall on the far side of the curtain from the cot. Gillespie said the stains appeared to be spatter, "dispersed through the air due to external force" from a source such as a nose, mouth or other object.

Blood was also found on the mattress and bed clothes in Ihaka's cot, he said. Further stains were detected on Ihaka's clothes – found in the living room, where he was initially treated – and other baby clothes found in the master bedroom. All were matches for Ihaka's DNA.

Taylor provided his clothes for forensic examination. Blood with several DNA profiles was found on his T-shirt. The majority match was for Ihaka. 

Questioned by defence counsel Phil Shamy, Gillespie said the blood on the T-shirt was a "probable" stain and could have been transferred from Ihaka while being carried if he had been bleeding recently.

It was not clear if any of the blood stains were the result of an impact, he said.

Many blood and hair samples taken from Ihaka's room were not tested, he said. Under re-examination from Crown prosecutor Mark Zarifeh​, Gillespie said it was common to test a representative sample of such evidence.

The court watched Taylor's police interview conducted less than an hour after Ihaka died. He recounted how the child was grizzly and restless in his cot that night. Taylor briefly climbed into the cot to settle him and climbed out when he fell asleep.

"He seemed fine," Taylor said.

"He was asleep and I just exited out of the room and partially shut the door. He had his night light and stuff on so he could still see in the room."

Taylor said he heard "quite a loud thud" from Ihaka's room a couple of hours later. He told police that when he checked on the boy he found him face down, pale and unresponsive.

In the taped interview, Detective Nigel Thomson pressed Taylor on how Ihaka was hurt: "Things just don't add up from what you're telling me. There's some inconsistencies in your story.

"There's a pattern happening here, isn't there?" Thomson said, referring to a bruise on Ihaka's jaw the day before he died.

"What's the pattern?" Taylor asked.

Thomson: "You've been hitting him haven't you?"

"No, I haven't been hitting him," Taylor said.

"I would not lay a finger on that boy he means everything to me . . . I would lay down my own life for him. That boy is everything to me. I would never, ever touch him."

Taylor repeated in the interview his account of hearing a bang and finding Ihaka unresponsive when he checked him.

The trial continues on Friday.

 - Stuff

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