The lawyer for a man accused of murdering a Tauranga toddler has told a jury that there was "no evidence" her client harmed the child let alone wanted to kill her.
A defence medical expert also says the most likely cause of Sadie-Leigh Gardner's blunt force trauma injuries was an accidental impact to the head or significant fall.
Adrian Colin Clancy, who is on trial in the Rotorua High Court, has denied murdering 17-month-old Sadie-Leigh in Tauranga on March 27, 2019.
On that date, the Crown alleges Clancy violently assaulted the child while she was in his sole care, before he sought help from a neighbour for the unresponsive girl.
Sadie-Leigh was admitted to Tauranga Hospital that day and then transferred to Starship hospital, where she died two days later.
Clancy elected not to give evidence when his lawyer Kerry Tustin opened the defence case today.
Tustin told the jury that from the outset her client denied causing any harm to Sadie-Leigh.
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 gave evidence via an audiovisual link from Sydney.
Duflou, a specialist forensic pathologist, said in the absence of any direct or observed evidence of a deliberate act against the child, in his opinion this was an accidental impact.
He agreed the cause of death was from blunt force head injury.
Under cross-examination by Crown prosecutor Richard Jenson, Duflou accepted these type of injuries, particularly the eye injuries, were more common in inflicted injuries.
However, Duflou said in the absence of any other explanation there were multiple possibilities that could explain Sadie-Leigh's injuries.
"I personally have a problem with the Crown medical experts saying this has to be abuse."
During his closing address, Jenson told the jury that, regarding the question of intent, what else could they conclude but the deliberate application of force against the toddler.
Jenson said there was no suggestion of prior trauma and significant change in Sadie-Leigh's behaviour before she was left alone in the defendant'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.
Or at the "very least" appreciated his actions in assaulting the child would cause her very serious harm which was likely to cause her death and went ahead anyway, Jenson said.
He said the jury could be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt of Clancy's guilt.
However, Clancy's lawyer Kerry Tustin argued the Crowns case lacked evidence to support the allegation her client had harmed the child at all.
"Your verdict must be based on a solid foundation and that means you must be sure Mr Clancy is guilty based on the factual evidence, not assumptions or speculation."
Tustin said the jury was being asked by the Crown to presume nothing had happened to the child before her mother left her in Clancy's sole care.
She said it was vital the jury looked at all the evidence presented in the trial.
"Don't let lawyers put spins on things. Don't speculate or guess, or try to fill the gaps with spin. This is a murder trial and 100 per cent this is Mr Clancy's life you're dealing with."
Tustin said there was evidence from a Crown witness that by the time the toddler returned home with her mother about 2.07pm that day, she was not behaving normally.
The witness told the court that after she removed Sadie-Leigh from the car, the child was sweating, "dozing in and out" and was "off".
Tustin said Sadie-Leigh's mother told the court her daughter was asleep when she left.
"No one knows the true state of the child at that time, nor do we know what happened in that room, certainly not Mr Clancy," she said.
Tustin reminded the jury that Sadie-Leigh's mother gave evidence that she hadn't believed the defendant had harmed her daughter until he was charged.
"Yet the Crown wants you to accept that between 3.31 pm and 3.49 pm on March 27, 2019, Mr Clancy just snapped and assaulted Sadie-Leigh... It just doesn't make sense."
Clancy told the police that Sadie-Leigh had a coughing fit after he put her to bed and when he went to check on her about five minutes later he found her unresponsive.
He also said he performed CPR on her which helped a little before he sought help from a neighbour who called an ambulance -another neighbour also performed CPR on the child.
Tustin said in fact Clancy's actions were to the contrary to the Crown's case as he also made several attempts to call her mother, confirmed in text messages and phone calls.
Clancy had told the police that Sadie-Leigh had a coughing fit after he put her to bed and when he went to check on her after about five minutes he found her unresponsive
It was important to look at the actions of Sadie-Leigh's other carers that day, including her mother, Tustin said.
She also reminded the jury that an ESR scientist confirmed there was no DNA or physical evidence in or around the unit to support the Crown's case.
Tustin said there was insufficient evidence to prove that Clancy had any part in the death of Sadie-Leigh Gardiner and the only safe verdict was not guilty.
The trial continues.