Woman accused over mother's death speaks

4:53 pm on 29 July 2016

The daughter of a woman found starved to death in her own bed says she was working long hours and would come home to find her mother lying in her own waste.

Coat of Arms inside the High Court in Rotorua

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Cindy Taylor is accused of the manslaughter of her 76-year-old mother, Ena Dung, at her Manurewa home in January last year.

Giving evidence in her own defence, Ms Taylor told the High Court in Auckland about her upbringing in Whakatane, where her parents owned the local Chinese restaurant.

Ms Taylor told the court she had a falling out with her mother after her mother was convicted of drug offending.

The court was told Ena Dung was caught visiting hospitals and medical centres to get the controlled drug pethidine, which she was then passing on to someone else.

But, despite the strained relationship, Ms Taylor moved in with her mother and flatmates Luana and Brian Taylor (who are not related to her) to look after her mother after her parent's 43-year marriage came to an end.

"When I first moved in, she wasn't happy about me being there but I did have a discussion with her to say: 'Look, I know we haven't been close in the past, it's time to put the past behind us and move on and try and have a civil relationship.'"

But she said after her mother's brother died, her mother withdrew and stopped leaving her room.

Ms Taylor said her mother had once loved her food but she also believed her mother suffered from bulimia.

Her mother went downhill fast in her last few weeks, she said.

"It was after the Christmas period is when she was starting to refuse her meals. That's when I would hand feed her and she would eat the food but in the week leading up to her death that's when she was refusing to eat."

Her lawyer, Richard Keam, also asked her about the open sores that covered Ms Dung's lower back and legs.

"There were times when I mentioned to Ena about getting medical attention ... She will just say 'no, no'."

Ms Taylor said she tried to keep up with the washing but she did struggle.

She broke down as she spoke of going to her mother's bedroom on the night she died.

"I went over and put my arms under her armpits to prop her up and that's when I realised ... That's when I checked ... I felt her skin, it was cold."

Under cross-examination from Brian Taylor's lawyer, Louise Freyer, Ms Taylor said she did not notice how skinny her mother was getting as she was doing long hours at work and spending her time at home cleaning up after her mother.

She said she kept it to herself because she didn't want to bother Luana and Brian Taylor.

The court has been told Ms Dung weighed just 29kg, had open sores that were gangrenous and had 14 broken ribs and a broken breastbone when she died.