An Auckland man accused of murdering a 16-month-old boy can now be named before a trial next year.

Phillip John Welsh appeared this morning in the High Court at Auckland after being arrested and charged with murdering Malcolm Bell.

The now 52-year-old can be named after an interim suppression order lapsed for the accused baby killer.

Welsh, who has already pleaded not guilty to murder, is on bail but failed to front for a brief procedural hearing this morning.


Defence lawyer David Niven said his client was stuck in traffic.

Justice Timothy Brewer issued a warrant for Welsh's arrest but allowed him an hour to get to the historic courthouse on Parliament St or face being held in custody.

A trial has been scheduled for August next year, while Welsh is due to appear in court again in February.

The Herald earlier revealed that at least two people had contacted Oranga Tamariki with concerns about the welfare of baby Malcolm before he suffered the suspected abuse-related injuries which led to his death on June 29.

Six days before he died, the toddler was rushed to Starship Hospital, where doctors assessed him and, believing the injuries were not accidental, notified police.

A homicide investigation was launched by police shortly after.

Malcolm was one of six children.

All of his siblings had previously been taken from his mother and are now in foster or whānau care.


The Herald has also reported that Malcolm is a nephew of triple murderer William Dwane Bell.

Malcolm's maternal 41-year-old uncle killed three people during a drug-fuelled robbery at the Mt Wellington Panmure RSA in December 2001.

William Bell, who is serving a 30-year non-parole life sentence, is the older brother of Malcolm's mother Savanna Bell.

At the murder accused's first appearance in the Auckland District Court, Savanna Bell was in the courtroom to see the man charged with ending her son's life.

She has not been charged over her son's death.

Malcolm Bell died six days after he was rushed to hospital. Photo / Supplied
Malcolm Bell died six days after he was rushed to hospital. Photo / Supplied

The Herald understands that in the weeks before Malcolm's death, at least two of his family members contacted Oranga Tamariki with concerns about his welfare.

Oranga Tamariki initially would not be drawn on Malcolm's death, citing the police investigation.

However, central Auckland regional manager Anna Palmer later spoke on the matter when questioned by the Herald.

"Our social workers were aware that people were worried about Malcolm's situation, and were working to provide support to him and his whānau prior to his death," she said.

"The tragic death of Malcolm Bell has affected many, and our thoughts are with those who loved him."

Palmer could not go into the specifics of the concerns raised or speak further to the involvement Oranga Tamariki has had with Savanna Bell in relation to any of her children.

"Malcolm's death has also been referred to a coroner who will look into the wider circumstances," Palmer said.

"The coroner will consider whether there are lessons that can be learned for the future."

Savanna Bell has refused to speak to the Herald.

"I have had legal advice and I will not be speaking to the media," she said in June when approached for comment.

But after news broke of a man's arrest and murder charge, Welsh's brother spoke to the Herald.

He said his sibling had been "wrongfully accused" and was said to be "shocked and horrified" at his arrest.