Ena Lai Dung died in a pool of her own urine and faeces, starved, dehydrated, neglected and in extreme pain.

She weighed just 29kg and was found on the green plastic sheet she was confined to amongst maggots and flies.

Broken bones from falls meant the 76-year-old was unable to move, feed or care for herself leaving her entirely dependent on her daughter, Cindy Melissa Taylor, 43, and two unrelated housemates - couple Luana Roberta Taylor, 56, and Brian Frank Taylor.

But all three neglected their duty of care.

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Today, they were sentenced for Ena's death at the High Court at Auckland.

Cindy was jailed for 13 years and three months for manslaughter and two dishonesty charges while Luana was sentenced to six years three months for failing to protect a vulnerable adult and Brian to six years for the same offence.

As he delivered his sentence, Justice Edwin Wylie said it was a case never seen before in New Zealand and that it was difficult to "imagine death in worse or more degrading circumstances".

THE DRUG RING

The group first met in Whakatane in the 1970s when Ena lived there with her husband and their daughter Cindy - they quickly became close long-term friends and would later create a scam to score drugs.

In 2007, Luana, Ena, Ena's brother Gordon Joe and her husband Hok Lai pretended to be foreign tourists on holiday and went to various hospitals and medical practices to try to score Class B prescription drugs, namely pethidine.

Ena and her husband feigned not being able to speak English, Gordon Joe played the bus driver and Luana pretended to be a Canadian tourist, according to previously suppressed court documents.

On one occasion in August 2007, Ena pretended to be wheelchair-bound and Luana acted as translator and nurse, telling doctors she was allergic to all pain medication other than pethidine.

The four defendants were tried and convicted that year in the Masterton District Court.

Ena Lai Dung, 64, left, and husband Hok Lai Dung, 73, leave Masterton District Court after being convicted of five charges each of obtaining a class B drug, pethidine. Photo / file
Ena Lai Dung, 64, left, and husband Hok Lai Dung, 73, leave Masterton District Court after being convicted of five charges each of obtaining a class B drug, pethidine. Photo / file

Dung, her husband and her brother were all convicted of procuring drugs and Luana pleaded guilty to seven charges of theft of a controlled drug and three of obtaining medical services by deception.

After the conviction, Cindy separated herself from her parents who eventually ended up living with the Taylors in their house in Manurewa.

THE NEGLECT

In 2012, Cindy moved in to reconcile with and care for her mother who had separated from her husband but started working long hours and night shifts - she had a long commute and little free time.

And not only did she have to care for her mother when she got home, but she was expected to do household chores as well.

Her mother's health started to deteriorate, with one neighbour noticing in late 2014 how the pensioner had become "really skinny with legs like toothpicks".

He also saw Cindy physically and emotionally abuse Ena one day on their back doorstep. She stood over her mother, forced her to look at her by pulling her hair and yelled abuse at her.

At some point, perhaps months, before her death Ena fell at least once breaking 14 ribs and her sternum leaving her in extreme pain and unable to move or feed herself - she became entirely dependent on her daughter and the Taylors.

But despite the agony Ena would have been in, no one gave her any pain medication or took her to get the medical attention she needed.

Instead, she was put to bed.

At some point she started to urinate and defecate in the bed because she couldn't leave it to go to the toilet and so Brian bought the green plastic sheet which would ultimately become Ena's deathbed.

She also stopped eating, with a post mortem finding that at the time of her death Ena would have gone two weeks without food and five days without water.

Ena weighed just 29kg when she died.

Experts gave evidence that had she been provided with sustenance and proper care, Ena would still be alive.

SHE WAS DENIED HER HUMAN DECENCY

Ena was emaciated, dehydrated, malnourished, left to lie in her own bodily waste which chemically burned her on a piece of plastic and was naked from the waist down.

Her top had almost fused to her wounds and had to be cut off with scissors and she'd developed bed sores. One was so deep it penetrated down to the bone while another was gangrenous.

When ambulance staff got to the house on January 16 last year after a call from Luana, they could smell an "extremely strong" stench of urine and ammonia. As they got closer to the bedroom, the smell got stronger.

They found Ena lying on a green plastic sheet in her own urine and faeces. They said she looked like a scarecrow.

Justice Wylie said Cindy's gross neglect and breach of accepted standards of human decency resulted in her mother's death.

THEY WOULD HAVE KNOWN

As Ena's health deteriorated and the stench coming from her room grew worse, Brian bought air fresheners and bug sprays to cover the smell.

They slept in the room next door or in the lounge at the end of a short hallway.

"You shared the same toilet and laundry facilities as Ms Dung. You observed food being taken to her room.

"You must have observed that it was often returned uneaten. You both knew about Ms Dung's loss of weight.

"You cannot have been unaware of the stench of urine, defecation and rotting flesh coming from Ms Dung's room.

"You knew that there were flies and maggots in her room, and that Ms Taylor was using cleaning products such as air fresheners and fly sprays extensively," Justice Wylie said.

Brian and Cindy Taylor have been convicted of failing to protect a vulnerable adult. Photo / file.
Brian and Cindy Taylor have been convicted of failing to protect a vulnerable adult. Photo / file.

On a reasonably regular basis, Brian would even pop his head into her room to say hello and on the day she died he saw her through the window.

But to this day, he maintains his innocence.

"Neither of you did anything. Rather you turned a blind eye to Ms Dung's obvious suffering."

EVENTUALLY IT CAME TO A HEAD

On January 15, the day before Ena's body was found, Luana called Health Line and told a registered nurse the 76-year-old was trying to kill herself, that she'd become incontinent, was falling frequently and refused to see a doctor or eat.

The next day, Luana called 111 and told an operator she had a feeling Ena had "passed" and that Cindy was "freaking out".

All three of the defendants told the police Ena was bulimic, depressed, had a drug problem and that she caused her own death.

The jury rejected this, Justice Wylie said.

IT WAS A LONELY EXISTENCE

Not only was she physically mistreated and neglected, but the Crown said Ena's life became a sad and lonely existence.

"She would have had a very lonely and isolated life," Walker said.

The defendants were also not in a position where they were underprivileged and had a "relatively high quality of life" where they could buy possessions, food and alcohol.

"This was not a house where there was great under-privilege at all."

THE DISHONESTY

Separate to the manslaughter charge, Cindy was also found guilty on two counts of dishonestly using eftpos cards - one each for taking her dead uncle's and mother's superannuation.

WHO IS CINDY TAYLOR?

Of Chinese descent, Cindy was born in Whakatane in 1973 and has said she had a sheltered upbringing.

"You said that your mother was a strong and controlling person and that she was 'the one who called the shots'," Justice Wylie said.

Cindy and Brian Taylor have both been sent to jail over the death of Cindy's mother, Ena Dung. Photo / file
Cindy and Brian Taylor have both been sent to jail over the death of Cindy's mother, Ena Dung. Photo / file

After the conviction, Cindy severed ties with her parents and only sought to reconcile with her mother after her dad's death.

"You were not in a relationship at the time of your arrest and you reported that you have been single for some years. You have no children.

"You presented as a mature woman, articulate in your responses. You asked intelligent questions in an attempt to understand the trial and sentencing processes."

Cindy told a probation officer that she didn't want to see her mother die and that she was still in shock but a report writer found that while she'd taken responsibility for what happened, she still struggled to come to terms with the fact that she'd been convicted of causing Ena's death.

THE TAYLORS

Raised in Auckland, Luana went to Canada in her late 20s where she met Brian.

"You told the probation officer that you had six children, but that five of them were tragically killed in a car accident in Canada. You reported having one remaining son who resides in Auckland.

"Telephone contact was made with your son. He confirmed that you were involved in a car accident, but denied any knowledge of the loss of five siblings."

Luana claimed to have been born with a degenerative bone disorder and that she needs a wheelchair for chronic lower back pain but wasn't able to name her condition or a doctor who had treated her.

A different report found her condition was caused by injuries sustained in a car accident in Canada and cited letters written by her doctors at the time.

Luana Roberta and Brian Frank Taylor have been sent to jail for their role in a senior's death. Photo / File
Luana Roberta and Brian Frank Taylor have been sent to jail for their role in a senior's death. Photo / File

Meanwhile, Brian, a painter, claimed he has burnt follicles in his nose so doesn't have a good sense of smell which is why he wasn't aware of Ena's condition.

"You continue to maintain that you were not guilty of the offending, and you claimed confusion that you have been charged and convicted."

He maintains his innocence to this day.

THE SENTENCE

Justice Wylie said Cindy's level of culpability was "very high" and called her offending very serious.

"Your gross neglect and breach of accepted standards of human decency resulted in your mother's death."

Ena was vulnerable, had no means of helping herself and was socially isolated.

"She was bedridden. She could not move. She was in significant pain. Her survival became entirely dependent on those in the household and in particular, on you, Ms Taylor."

Other aggravating factors were the gross breach of trust, the neglect, the harm suffered by Ena and the "cruelty and callousness" of the offending.

In his view, Justice Wylie said Ena's basic human dignity was ignored.

"Her death was long, painful and unnecessary. It is difficult to imagine a death in worse or more degrading circumstances."

He sentenced her to 12 years in prison for manslaughter and 18 months total for the two dishonesty charges to be served cumulatively, leaving an end sentence of 13 years and three months.

Brian Frank Taylor, Luana Roberta Taylor and Cindy Melissa Taylor were sentenced today at the Auckland High Court. Photo / file
Brian Frank Taylor, Luana Roberta Taylor and Cindy Melissa Taylor were sentenced today at the Auckland High Court. Photo / file

Turning to Luana and Brian, he said they were aware of Ena's condition and suffering, witnessed the physical and verbal abuse and could not have been unaware of the strong smell of urine and rotting flesh.

"Neither of you did anything, rather you turned a blind eye to Ms Dung's obvious suffering."

Justice Wylie adopted a starting point of six years and six months for Luana because he considered her to be more culpable than her husband as she was the "controlling influence" in the household and attempted to conceal her offending.

He gave her a discount for remorse leaving an end sentence of six years and three months.

The judge set a starting point of six years for Brian and did not give any reductions.

THE FIRST CASE OF ITS KIND

On behalf of the Crown, Walker said it was "a dreadful case of neglect" but because failing to protect a vulnerable adult was a relatively new charge there was no precedent for sentencing.

"It's the first case of its kind to come before New Zealand courts."