Toddler murder trial: 'She told me not to tell'

By Brendan Manning

Terepo Taura-Griffiths died of head injuries in late 2011. Photo / Supplied
Terepo Taura-Griffiths died of head injuries in late 2011. Photo / Supplied

A woman charged with murdering her godson told her biological children to lie about the incident when interviewed by police, a High Court jury heard today.

Mariam Tohuia Filihia is facing one charge of murder and one of grievous bodily harm following the death of one-year-old Terepo 'Popo' Taura-Griffiths in south Auckland in November 2011.

In her opening address, Crown lawyer Christine Gordon, QC told the jury that when a specialist child interviewer spoke to Filihia's children from a previous relationship, her daughter said she had seen her mother slap, punch, flick and attempt to drown Terepo on separate occasions.

"She told me not to tell," Ms Gordon said the daughter, whose name is suppressed.

The daughter told the interviewer she lied to police about her mother's handling of Terepo because she didn't want her to go to jail, Ms Gordon said.

Her mother used to get frustrated when Terepo cried and used to smack him while he was lying flat on the floor.

Earlier in the day the High Court at Auckland heard that Filihia and her husband had wanted to adopt Terepo.

Despite having three children from a previous partner, Filihia and her husband Simione Filihia could not have a child of their own.

"Terepo had become a substitute for a child Filihia and her partner could not have," Ms Gordon said.

Terepo was in the Filihias' care when he received the injures that led to his death, the court heard.

On the night of November 4, 2011 he was taken to the White Cross medical centre in Otahuhu, just after 9.30pm.

The receptionist described Terepo's condition when he arrived as "lifeless". Medical staff could not find his pulse but heard a faint heartbeat.

Filihia told staff Terepo had fallen off the bed and hit his head on the mirror after suffering a seizure. However Terepo's bed consisted of a mattress on the floor, Ms Gordon said.

Terepo was rushed to Starship hospital where he was placed on life support. He died shortly after it was switched off.

Middlemore doctors said Terepo had a serious head injury inconsistent with Filihia's version of events.

A specialist children's eye doctor found severe haemorrhaging in the back of his retina "typical of a non-accidental injury".

Further concerns were raised when older injuries showed up on a CT and MRI scan, Ms Gordon said.

Police were then called, as is standard protocol for the discovery of non-accidental injuries.

Terepo died on November 6, and a post-mortem was carried out the following day.

A 5cm fracture was found on Terepo's skull, along with evidence of bleeding on both sides of his brain.

Fresh and historical bruising was also found on the cartilage behind his left ear, Ms Gordon said.

The Crown argues Terepo received a blunt force injury from Filihia which caused his death.

The trial continues before Justice Murray Gilbert.

- APNZ

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