Complaints before death, court hears

Last updated 13:31 10/02/2014

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An Auckland man charged with murdering his 2-year-old stepdaughter complained about looking after the toddler saying: "She's not even my girl but I'm looking after her."

Michael Martin, 25, is on trial in the High Court in Auckland charged with the murder of Leilani Mary Jane Lotonu'u-Lorigan.

Prosecutor Christine Gordon, QC, said in opening that Leilani died of an infection after her duodenum – an organ in her abdomen – was split in two places.

A pathologist said it was an injury inflicted with "a substantial amount of force" as would be seen when someone was kicked by a horse or if they fell from a height onto a fence post.

The toddler died in her Manurewa home on June 10, 2012 after her mother, Amy Lorigan, then 19, found her with her eyes flickering and not closing in her sleep.

Police launched a murder investigation after an autopsy discovered the internal injuries, which were thought to have occurred in the 24 hours before Leilani's death.

Lorigan and Martin looked after the girl together the day before her death, but Lorigan left the house for an hour to do some shopping, after which Leilani exhibited signs of being unwell.

The toddler vomited and had a temperature but her mother had assumed it was a stomach bug.

Early the next morning Lorigan found Leilani partially on the mattress next to her.

"Her eyes were flicking back in her head and her eyes wouldn't close", Gordon said.

Lorigan rang an ambulance and fetched a neighbour who performed CPR, but the child was pronounced dead by paramedics about 5.45am.

Gordon said that in the days leading up to Leilani's death Martin had complained about looking after the toddler.

He told Lorigan that when he looked at Leilani "all he saw was her ex-partner" – Leilani's father.

The toddler had been supposed to go to her father's house the weekend she died, but when that fell through, Martin became angry, Gordon said.

Gordon said Martin had three children by another woman and he texted her about getting back together and slept with her in the days before Leilani's death.

The day before the death, he texted his former partner that he had broken up with "that thing" (meaning Lorigan).

After police launched a murder investigation, Martin "tried to paint a picture of happy families", Gordon said.

He told police they were "all one family" and did not mention breaking up with Lorigan.

He said Leilani had fallen off a chair in the garage and cut her lip but the pathologist found no sign of a cut, the prosecutor said.

Gordon said the Crown case was that Martin was lying.

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As well as the murder charge, Martin was charged with failing to provide the necessities of life – namely medical attention – as the doctor's opinion was that Leilani would have lived if she had been taken to hospital soon after the injury occurred.

The trial before Justice Graham Lang is scheduled for three weeks.

- Stuff

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