Court hears child death calls

Joel Loffley told JJ's mother after the boy died that he fell off the bed.  Photo / Richard Robinson
Joel Loffley told JJ's mother after the boy died that he fell off the bed. Photo / Richard Robinson

JJ's mother and accused mentioned Kahui case in conversations recorded by police.

Police intercepted phone calls between a toddler's mother and the man accused of the murdering the child. The High Court at Auckland yesterday heard recordings of calls between the pair, secretly recorded by police in the days after the death death.

Two-year-old James Joseph Ruhe Lawrence - known as JJ - died last November at a house in the Auckland suburb of Orakei, where he lived with his mother and her partner, Joel Loffley.

Loffley has denied murdering the child.

In the phone calls the couple talked about moving north after the case was over, and mentioned the Kahui twins.

JJ's mother, Josephine Lawrence, asked Loffley if he knew about the Kahui case.

Loffley said: "They haven't made any arrests in that yet."

Ms Lawrence replied: "That's exactly what we will go through."

In another conversation, Loffley told Ms Lawrence that he had something "buzzy" to tell her, but he couldn't say it over the phone.

"I'm scared I'm going to go down for something I haven't even done."

He repeatedly asked Ms Lawrence if she blamed him, and repeated his version of events that JJ fell off the bed while he was "fluffing" the blankets and later died in his sleep.

"This is just too stressful. I'm kicking myself because I don't know CPR."

The phone conversations between the couple were recorded while they were still in a relationship but living apart.

The court heard last week from Ms Lawrence, who gave details about JJ's short life.

She said JJ had grown up around cannabis. The boy's father - who was in prison when he was born - smoked the drug around the home, and so had Loffley.

"Joel used to give him spots ... I probably would have blown smoke in his face but that's about it."

She confirmed she had smoked methamphetamine and used Ecstasy but said the drugs came from Loffley, who she said sold cannabis.

Ms Lawrence said Loffley was a jealous and violent man who beat her and once throttled her in their kitchen until she stopped breathing.

"He nearly killed me."

Asked by Loffley's lawyer, Roger Chambers, why she didn't leave or phone for help, Ms Lawrence said she came close to leaving him but found out she was pregnant and wanted to stay for the child that was on the way.

"I loved him at the time and love makes you do stupid things."

The court has heard that Loffley told police JJ had been bouncing on the bed when he fell off and landed on his chest.

Mr Chambers asked Ms Lawrence if she had "lost it" and been violent with her son. Ms Lawrence denied ever hurting him.

Mr Chambers also asked questions about JJ's funeral, and whether she had told Loffley, "I did it".

Ms Lawrence replied: "I didn't say that. If he says that, he's wrong and he's a liar."

She said the night of the funeral, she and Loffley were in bed.

"He asked me, 'Do you think I did it?' and I said yes."

Ms Lawrence confirmed she had said to her cousin that she might get between five and six years in prison because JJ's death had been an accident.

"I said that because I felt I was to blame, even though I didn't do anything. I felt like I was to blame because I am the mother."

- NZ Herald

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