A South Auckland man described by paramedics as having died with his skin fused to his filthy recliner chair was often surly to his wife, refusing her offers of help, the couple's daughter has testified at her mother's manslaughter trial.
"His moods started to change," Lanitola Epenisa's daughter, who was 16 at the time of his October 2016 death, said of the two strokes that incapacitated him in the two years prior.
He began yelling and swearing more, with most of his anger focused on defendant Malia Li, the daughter told jurors at the Auckland High Court.
"A lot of times I would hear my dad shouting at her, yelling at her to just leave it to us [daughters]," she said of his care. "In Tongan, he would say abusive swear words ... all the time when my mum offered to help."
An interpreter, who has been assisting the defendant throughout the weeks-long trial, interpreted one of the statements recollected by the daughter as: "You a******. I don't want you near me. Go away."
Other times, the daughter recalled, her father would tell her mother: "I don't want to go and see the doctor. You piss off."
"She always told my dad to go to his doctor appointments. He always refused to go in."
Her father was "always an angry person" as she was growing up, but his mood got worse after his strokes, she said.
Crown prosecutors allege Epenisa died of blood poisoning from pressure sores so severe his muscle and bone were visible — the result, they say, of neglect by his wife who had previously worked as a Healthcare NZ carer. Emergency responders reported finding him at the Māngere home in a chair stained with urine and faeces, next to a cabinet with a rat nest inside.
The daughter told jurors she shared that single room with her parents and her sister. She slept in a queen-sized bed beside her mother and sister, she said, while her father slept in the recliner.
"There were no visitors because he wouldn't want people to come see him swearing at my mum with those abusive swear words," she told defence attorney Nalesoni Tupou.
She described her mum as "very unhealthy as well", having undergone two surgeries and multiple hospital stays for kidney stones.
On the evening before Epenisa was found dead, the daughter recalled the whole family sitting in the room together after dinner. The room was clean, she said, contradicting testimony from emergency responders who would arrive hours later.
"He was talking fine to us," she said, adding that he "didn't mention anything" about feeling unwell.
During cross-examination, Crown prosecutor Jasper Rhodes repeatedly asked the daughter about her assertion that she and her sister were the only ones who could care for him due to their father's wishes.
"There were other choices, weren't there?" he asked.
"I don't know," she eventually answered.
Rhodes also suggested during questioning that during a 16-month period, records show Epenisa only had four months of medication.
"I remember my dad taking his medication every day," the daughter said.
"That's not true, is it?" the prosecutor responded.
"No, I disagee," she said.