22 Feb 2017

Father jailed for smothering daughter

5:42 pm on 22 February 2017

A Hawera man has been sentenced to four years and three months in jail for killing his two-year-old daughter - who must have experienced what has been described as "true horror" in the last minutes of her life.

Philip Kinraid

Philip Kinraid, pictured, was found "shocked, horrified and suicidal" when emergency services arrived at his house, his lawyer told the court. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Esme Kinraid suffocated after her father, Philip Murray Kinraid, forced her face into a pillow when she wouldn't settle at bedtime in June 2015.

He pleaded guilty to manslaughter in November last year, shortly before he was due to stand trial.

On the night of her death, Esme did not get off to sleep in the room she shared with her brother. Her father, a chemical engineer, took her to a spare room about 7.30pm.

It was here the last moments of her life played out.

Justice Ellis, in the High Court in New Plymouth, said Kinraid told police Esme was still struggling, so he put her bottom under his right armpit and placed his right hand on her head.

"You said you held Esme down with a minimum amount of force to stop her getting up again and you said she was squirming, making noises, and inhaling and exhaling while she screamed.

"You said that you monitored her breathing and the noises she was making and held her in that face-down position [for] between five and 10 minutes, after which you said she settled, letting out a shuddering breath."

Justice Ellis said Kinraid was called out to work, but before he did so he checked on Esme and told her mother she was fine.

After returning home, the 29-year-old again looked in on his daughter.

"You describe entering the spare room, you nudged Esme and said her name. You noticed she was unnaturally stiff.

"You turned her over and saw that one of her eyes was half open but that she was not moving or breathing and she had discolouration on one side of her face."

Kinraid called 111 and the operator talked him through performing CPR. During the call, Kinraid said he thought he'd killed his daughter.

An ambulance and police arrived about 11.10pm and Esme was declared dead a few minutes later.

Detective Daniel Goomey

Detective Daniel Goomey became the officer in charge of the case. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

In November last year, shortly before he was due to stand trial on charges related to Esme's death, Kinraid pleaded guilty to a charge of manslaughter.

His defence counsel, Paul Keegan, said his client had not meant to kill his daughter.

"The death of Esme was a tragic accident - an accident caused by the actions and the deliberate actions of her father but an accident nonetheless.

"The summary in this case does not provide that the defendant was acting out of anger or frustration towards his daughter."

Mr Keegan said from the beginning his client admitted responsibility for Esme's death.

"When police arrive, his reaction is telling. He claims he may have been responsible. He says even to the extent that 'I might have committed manslaughter'.

"He asks police to shoot him. He's shocked, horrified and suicidal."

Crown prosecutor Justin Marinovich suggested a jail term of six-and-a-half years was suitable for this type of offending.

He said Esme's mother had suffered unbearably and the fear that the toddler must have felt had to be acknowledged as well.

"The horror Esme must have experienced in the last minutes of her life when her face was held into the pillow and her life was taken.

"She is not just a name in this proceeding but someone who no doubt in those last minutes experienced true horror."

In sentencing, Justice Ellis referred to Esme's vulnerability and the breach of trust between a father and a child.

She jailed Kinraid for four years and three months.

An appeal has been lodged regarding an application for the permanent suppression of some aspects of this case.

'Beyond comprehension'

Outside court, Detective Daniel Goomey said it was an extreme tragedy for any child to lose its life.

"For a child to lose their life at the hands of the very person they should be able to depend on most is beyond comprehension."

He acknowledged the hardship Esme's mother and brother faced.

"Esme had a loving and nurtured - albeit far too short - upbringing and their sense of loss is immeasurable."

Detective Goomey stressed there was nothing anyone from Esme's family - aside from her father - could have done to prevent the events that occurred on 26 June, 2015.

Sensible Sentencing Trust spokesperson Scott Guthrie was also in court today.

He said Kinraid's sentence did not align with the offence that was committed.

"It clearly says a baby's life is worth only about 17 months. A four-year three-month sentence: a third of that is 17 months.

"It's wrong and the Minister of Justice needs to step in and start sorting this out."

The maximum jail term for manslaughter is life imprisonment.

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