31 Jul 2013

Mother gives evidence in baby death trial

6:07 pm on 31 July 2013

The mother of a baby allegedly murdered by his godmother says doctors at an Auckland hospital told her someone had hurt the boy with what looked like a blow to the head.

Mariam Filihia is on trial at the High Court in Auckland charged with causing grievous bodily harm and murdering Terepo Taura-Griffiths, known as Popo, in November 2011.

The Crown says Mrs Filihia had been caring for Popo for four days when she struck his head against a hard surface. The one-year-old died in Starship Hospital in Auckland two days later.

The court was told that Popo lived most of the time with his grandmother known as Anna, who has since died, but also stayed for long periods with the accused, who lived next door.

The baby also spent a few days here and there with his mother Terepai Benioni.

Ms Benioni told the court on Wednesday that she thought the worst when she arrived at Starship and was told by relatives not to be angry. She said doctors told her that Popo was brain-damaged and someone had caused it.

Ms Benioni said Mariam Filihia told her a few days later that the boy had hurt himself when falling out of the bath.

The court was told Terepai Benioni's family got on well with Mariam Filihia and that she offered advice like a big sister would.

Ms Benioni said the accused took care of Popo for a week after Child, Youth and Family suggested that she should be caring for him. The mother said she did this so that the boy wouldn't be taken off them, but after a few days gave him back to Mrs Filihia because she trusted her to look after him.

A statement by Popo's grandmother Anna was read to the court on Wednesday in which she told police she was happy for Mariam Filihia to take care of the boy and that she was a nice, caring person.

She said the accused was crying a lot when her life-support was about to be switched off, and asked for it not to be, but Anna told her it had to be turned off.

The statement said Mrs Filihia spoke in Tongan for some time, before saying in English that Popo was supposed to be going home with her family. It said the accused was a good parent and never physically disciplined her children.