'He pointed the shotgun at Amokura and he pulled the trigger' - Crown

5:24 pm on 27 July 2017

A father cocked a loaded shotgun, pointed it at his 2-year-old daughter - who was as close as 30 centimetres away - and pulled the trigger, the Crown says.

Gustav Sanft and the shotgun that killed his daughter Amokura Daniels-Sanft.

Gustav Sanft and the shotgun that killed his daughter Amokura Daniels-Sanft. Photo: RNZ / Edward Gay

Crown prosecutor Katie Hogan made her closing arguments at the High Court in Auckland today, where Gustav Otto Sanft is on trial for the manslaughter of his daughter, Amokura Daniels-Sanft.

Mr Sanft's family were moving out of their Favona Rd home in Mangere on the morning of 2 June last year. Friends were helping in the front yard while Mr Sanft stood holding a sawn-off shotgun.

He told the court he did not believe the gun worked and planned to throw it in a rubbish skip that his partner had left to organise.

But in her closing arguments today, Crown prosecutor Katie Hogan suggested Mr Sanft may have been showing off to his friends as he held the shotgun with his daughter, Amokura, playing on a sofa close-by.

He was also stressed by the move, had just had an argument with his partner over money and Amokura had been crying.

"He failed to ensure that the shotgun was not loaded, he failed to ensure that the safety catch was on, he held the shotgun in close proximity to Amokura, he pointed the shotgun at Amokura and he pulled the trigger."

The gun went off, killing Amokura instantly.

"It is accepted that in pointing the gun at Amokura and pulling the trigger, the defendant did not expect the gun to fire, but the Crown maintains that he was acting out of anger or frustration, or to scare her."

Ms Hogan said Mr Sanft's admissions to police officers soon after the shooting were telling. They included the words 'I shot her'.

"Added to those express admissions that he pulled the trigger are all his additional comments, admitting he was responsible for the shooting - 'I shot her', heard by Constable Kanai, heard by Constable Ah-Lam; 'I accidentally shot her', heard by Constable Taurere ... 'I f***ed up'; 'what have I done?'; 'I don't deserve your sympathy'; 'I'm a killer'; 'I did this to her'."

Ms Hogan said Mr Sanft's own evidence was implausible, and parts of his story changed.

She said Mr Sanft told the police the gun had been tested but it didn't fire.

"Even if Mr Sanft had personally tried the gun numerous times and it had not fired, it remains a question for you, members of the jury, whether it is okay to hold a loaded gun near your two-year-old child, to not activate the safety catch, to point it at her, to pull the trigger - whether that is something a reasonable person would do."

Mr Sanft's lawyer Phil Hamlin said the Crown case was black and white and ignored the dangerous nature of the gun, including that it could fire without anyone pulling the trigger.

He pointed to evidence from a gun expert who found the gun could fire if the hammer was pulled back and let go.

Mr Hamlin said Mr Sanft denied pulling the trigger but that somehow it went off as he held the gun against his body and reached for a cigarette.

"His reactions, I suggest to you, are quite important. No one knows the consequences more severely than him. He's got to live with them for the rest of his life. He knew right then, that very second that the shot discharged, when he saw Amokura and what had happened. The second he saw his daughter fall to the ground, he saw the body parts, he saw her lifeless, he grabs her and holds her, and no doubt, he wished that time could be taken back."

Mr Hamlin said his client did not run but instead, held his daughter for as long as he could.

"He picked her up, he holds her close. He would have worked out, clearly, that she was dead. And then he wanders backwards and forwards, howling and crying, in such a way that it echoed down Favona Road and haunted the police officers who were present. It echoed down the road his anguish, his despair, his grief, his realisation that he was holding in his arms, his dead daughter."

Mr Hamlin's closing arguments were cut short by a fire alarm and the evacuation of the court.

He will continue his submissions tomorrow before Justice Venning sums up the case and the jurors retire to consider their verdict.

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