A jury has found Adrian Colin Clancy guilty of murdering toddler Sadie-Leigh Gardner, nearly two years to the day after she was admitted to hospital with head injuries.
The unanimous verdict was returned this afternoon in the High Court at Rotorua, where the Tauranga man has been on trial since March 15.
The jury deliberated for about four hours and 40 minutes.
Clancy, 39, was accused of fatally injuring the 17-month-old while she was in his sole care in a Tauranga home on March 27, 2019. She died two days later in Starship hospital.
Clancy is a former partner of the toddler's mother.
The Crown case was that Clancy violently assaulted the child after she was left in his care while her mother went to an appointment across town.
The defence argued there was no Crown evidence Clancy had harmed the child in any way.
A physical examination of Sadie-Leigh when she was initially admitted to Tauranga Hospital on March 27 revealed a boggy haematoma on the right side of the back of her head, the court was told.
The toddler's eyes were fixed and forced to one side and she was critically unwell.
CT scans revealed she sustained significant bilateral subdural brain bleeds and a fracture to the right side of her skull just below the right ear, the court was told.
A post-mortem examination revealed brain swelling and bleeding and a fracture to her right scapula.
The toddler also had significant retinal haemorrhages to both eyes and was unable to see.
The Crown's medical experts gave evidence there was no prior history of a significant fall or traumatic blunt force injury to the toddler that would otherwise explain her injuries.
Crown prosecutor Richard Jenson earlier told the jury that Clancy must have had murderous intent or was reckless in his deliberate application of force against the toddler.
Jenson said there was no suggestion of prior trauma or significant change in Sadie-Leigh's behaviour before she was left alone in Clancy's care.
There had been considerable evidence the toddler was safe and acting normally - albeit a bit grizzly as she had a cold - before being put to bed by Clancy, he said.
Jenson said there was also no suggestion of any cover-up by her other carers that day.
When the jury weighed up the totality of the evidence they could reach the "inescapable conclusion" Clancy intended to kill Sadie-Leigh when he violently assaulted her, he said.
Jenson said at the "very least", Clancy would have appreciated his actions in assaulting the child would cause her very serious harm, likely to cause her death, and went ahead anyway.
He said the jury could be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt of Clancy's guilt.
Defence lawyer Kerry Tustin earlier told the jury that from the outset her client denied causing any harm to Sadie-Leigh and there was no evidence he had harmed the child in any way.
The Crown had previously given evidence of its theory that Clancy assaulted the toddler between 3.31pm and 3.49pm on March 27, she said.
"But this is absolutely denied by Mr Clancy and it is the defence case that there is no evidence presented by the Crown to support that theory.
"It is medically impossible for anyone to say with any accuracy the timing of the head injury suffered by Sadie-Leigh particularly given the absence of any actual evidence."
The defence's medical expert Professor Dr Johan Duflou, a specialist forensic pathologist, said in the absence of any direct or observed evidence of a deliberate act by Clancy in his opinion this was an accidental impact or significant fall.
He agreed the cause of death was from blunt force head injury.
Justice Christian Whata summed up both the defence and the Crown prosecution cases before the jury retired at 11.38am today to consider the verdict.
Justice Whata told the jury the Crown had to prove beyond reasonable doubt the key elements of the murder charge before they found Clancy guilty.
That is, they must be sure he intentionally applied force to Sadie-Leigh's body and caused the fatal injuries to her, and at the time he had murderous intent, he said.
Whata said the jury must be satisfied Clancy "consciously decided or deliberately meant" to cause bodily injury to the child knowing it would kill her.
Or, that at the time of the alleged assault Clancy was reckless in his actions knowing it was likely to lead to the child's death and consciously ran the risk she would die, he said.
Whata said there was substantial evidence in the trial and the jury had to consider all of it, including cross-examination and re-examination evidence from the witnesses.
Justice Whata said all 12 jurors had to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt of Clancy's guilt on the murder charge or an alternative charge of manslaughter if they got to that point, otherwise they must acquit him.
After the deliberations, the jury foreman confirmed all 12 jurors had unanimously found Clancy guilty of murder.
Justice Whata convicted Clancy of the charge and gave him a warning under the three-strikes law.
Clancy was remanded in custody for sentencing in the High Court at Tauranga.
This was tentatively scheduled to take place on May 7, Justice Whata said.