Trial begins for Gustav Otto Sanft, who shot daughter in the head video

Gustav Otto Sanft appearing in the High Court at Auckland on Monday.

Gustav Otto Sanft appearing in the High Court at Auckland on Monday.

A father who fatally shot his daughter in the head told first responders she was "playing up" before he killed her. 

Gustav Otto Sanft, 26, is on trial for manslaughter after he shot his 2-year-old daughter Amokura Daniels-Sanft in June 2016 at their Mangere, south Auckland, home. 

His trial began on Monday morning in the High Court in Auckland. 

Police investigate outside the Favona Rd home in Mangere where the two-year-old-girl was shot dead.

Police investigate outside the Favona Rd home in Mangere where the two-year-old-girl was shot dead.

Crown prosecutor Katie Hogan opened the trial by saying the case involved a "terrible tragedy".

Manslaughter charge over fatal shooting of Mangere toddler
Man appears in Manukau District Court over shooting of two-year-old

The court heard how Sanft and his partner Julia Daniels were moving home on the morning their daughter was killed. 

Daniels had left the Favona Rd property, while Sanft looked after their two children, which included Amokura, and two of Daniels' children from a previous relationship. 

Sanft was holding the sawn-off shotgun when Amokura began to jump on a nearby couch which was in the driveway. He allegedly aimed the gun at her and pulled the trigger. 

"It seems the victim was playing up, or jumping on one of the couches, and Mr Sanft became angry or frustrated at her," Hogan said. 

"He pointed the gun at her, perhaps only intending to scare her, and pulled the trigger." 

Ad Feedback

The pellets entered Amokura's head above her left eye, shattering her skull and killing her instantly. 

At the time, police vehicles on their way to another incident were flagged down. Police found Sanft "walking around and wailing" holding his dead daughter, Hogan said. 

"He said, 'I pulled the trigger, she was just playing up, I f..... up. What have I done?'"

Hogan said Sanft told an ambulance officer, "I don't want your sympathy, I am a killer".

Hogan said one of Sanft's children had said "Dad was angry" Amokura was jumping on the couches. 

It is the Crown's case Sanft did not intend to kill his daughter, and that it was an accident. However, they argued that the firearm went off because Sanft pulled the trigger.

He told police following the death he did not believe the gun was loaded, and in the past it had failed to work.  

Subsequent tests on the weapon had shown it failed to fire four out of 12 times, Hogan said. 

It tended not to fire if the trigger was pulled softly, but when pressure was applied the gun did discharge, she said. 

According to Hogan, two of Sanft's children's had found the gun, which was not kept locked up, the day before the fatal shooting. 

Sanft's lawyer Phil Hamlin told the jury his client did not pull the trigger, but was holding the gun when it went off. 

"The shotgun fired without him having pulled the trigger. Regrettably at the time the shotgun fired, Mr Sanft's daughter was only a metre or so from him." 

Hamlin told the court the gun was unsafe, and the blame did not lie at his client's feet. 

Sanft was planning on disposing the gun that morning as he thought it did not work, Hamlin said. But before he could, the gun discharged. 


A friend of Sanft's who was at the address when the shot was fired gave emotional evidence about the moments before and after Amokura died. 

Anna Leao and her partner Jimmy Tikoinamaka were at Sanft's house to help with the move on the morning of June 2. 

Leoa was good friends with Sanft and Daniels, and their kids called her 'aunty'.

She had her back to the couches when she heard the gun go off. 

"I slowly turned myself around. [Sanft] was going towards the couches. That is when I realised that Amo had died." 

"My niece and nephew were crying and calling out to their Dad and Amo . . . We could not hear our baby's voice anymore."

Leoa attempted to call the emergency services four times, but was unsure what had happened. She explained she knew Amokura had been fatally injured, and Sanft was distraught. 

In a recording of one of the calls, played to the court, Leoa tells the operator: "My niece is laying on the ground bleeding. I don't even know what happened." 

Sanft can be heard crying in the background of the recording.

When questioned by Hamlin about the moments leading up to the shooting, Leoa said Sanft was calm. 

"The kids were well and happy, and so was their Dad. There was nothing to make us think something was wrong." 

Leoa said at no point did she see Sanft holding the gun. 

Along with the manslaughter charge, Sanft was also charged with unlawful possession of a pistol, which he pleaded guilty to on Monday morning. 

He sat in the dock, often weeping, as Leao gave evidence. 

The trial is in front of Justice Geoffrey Venning and a jury, and is set down for three weeks. 

- Audio courtesy of Radio NZ.

 - Stuff

Ad Feedback
special offers
Ad Feedback