22 Mar 2017

Mother denies she killed 15-month-old son

6:54 am on 22 March 2017

A Christchurch mother has denied it was her and not her partner that killed her 15-month-old boy.

Troy Taylor is on trial in the High Court in Christchurch for assaulting and murdering Ihaka Stokes in his home in 2015.

Mikala Stokes, Ihaka's mother, was the first witness to be called by the prosecution, and told the court about the repeated headaches Mr Taylor was suffering at the time.

Fifteen-month-old Ihaka Paora Braxton Stokes

Ihaka Stokes Photo: Facebook

Defence lawyer Philip Shamy suggested to Ms Stokes in court today that she was not coping at the time of Ihaka's death and relied heavily on Mr Taylor to look after her son.

Mr Shamy said she was young, heavily pregnant and was subject to mood swings, and that she had unintentionally harmed the toddler while the accused was out getting a tattoo.

Ms Stokes said while she had sent her partner a text message saying she was about to go insane and had put Ihaka down and walked away after losing patience, she was nevertheless coping.

Mr Shamy asked her directly: "Did you kill this boy?"

Ms Stokes replied that she would never harm her children.

The record of her police interview showed she replied to a question about whether she had harmed her child by saying, "I don't know."

The transcript said she then laughed and continued, saying, "Not that I know of."

She also talked about her habit of sleep-walking as a possible explanation for her son's injuries.

When asked about this by the defence lawyer, she said she had told police that to throw them off the trail, because she loved Mr Taylor "and did not want him to go down for this".

"I was protecting him," she told the court.

Mr Shamy said his client would give evidence that Ihaka was unwell the night he was found unconscious in his cot, and that he was floppy and had raspy breathing.

Ms Stokes said that was not true.

The first she knew there was something wrong with her son was when Mr Taylor woke her to tell her that, she said.

Mr Taylor said the first he knew there was something wrong was when he heard a loud bump and ran to the boy's room to find him unconscious.

Both Mr Taylor and Ms Stokes held their faces in their hands and wept as the jury heard a recording of the emergency call-taker giving Mr Taylor instructions on how to perform CPR on the child.

Members of the jury and the public gallery were also visibly upset as this was being played.

Ms Stokes could be heard in the background pleading with the call-taker and asking what they should do.

She told the court her son was not breathing, was pale and had blue lips and how every few minutes he let out loud gasps as he fought to stay alive.

Later, a photo of Ihaka Stokes after he had died was put up on a screen for Ms Stokes to see.

It was the first time she had seen a photo of him like this and she was only able to look at his bruised and pale face for a short period as the Crown lawyer detailed the 59 separate injuries her son had suffered.

The case continues.