Warning: Contains graphic evidence.
Given his profession, Detective Michael Abbot says he has a "bit of a threshold" for scenes that might churn the stomachs of those uninitiated in police work.
But even he had to take frequent breaks due to the "overpowering stench" while examining the room where Lanitola Epenisa, 48, was found dead in a recliner chair October 2016.
"It was a difficult environment to work in," he told jurors in the High Court at Auckland as the weeks-long manslaughter trial of Malia Li, Epenisa's widow, continues.
"The smell initially was not foreign to me. But definitely moving things around, lifting things was kind of the next step."
Epenisa, a father of two and former stone wall builder, had suffered two strokes two years earlier and could no longer walk or clean himself.
Li, a former Healthcare NZ worker, is accused of neglecting her husband of nearly 20 years to the point where his untreated pressure sores became fused with the chair he was found dead in.
Abbot described walking through a decrepit Māngere home "with various building extensions and lean-tos" — in which there were ants in the kitchen sugar pot, holes in the floors and the ceilings of other rooms and rats scurrying across at least two bedrooms.
Upon examining Epenisa's room, Abbot recalled finding a black bag under other bags of dirty laundry.
"There was an overwhelming stench of urine and faeces as I opened the bag and the air hit me," he recalled.
"The black bag contained soiled blankets and faeces-laden clothing and cloths. There were maggots present in the bag as well."
He also noted a "sodden", stained rug underneath the recliner and mouse droppings.
"As I moved the La-Z-Boy chair, a mouse actually ran out from inside the chair," he said, adding that when he opened a rubbish-strewn cupboard next to the chair "multiple mice ran in all directions".
"It was at that point I realised there had been a rodent nest next to the deceased's location," Abbot said, describing the overall area as "disgusting".
The detective also noted a 1.5-litre plastic bottle next to the chair that appeared to contain a mixture of urine and blood, as well as a singlet that appeared to have "strips of skin" where the garment would have been in contact with Epenisa's back and buttocks.
"The La-Z-Boy itself appeared to be soaked in urine," he said.
Defence lawyer Mark Ryan pointed out that there were other bottles in the home that could have been used for medication, and that there were four people living in the room.
During his earlier opening statement, Ryan promised to call an expert witness who will say the pressure sores were very recent. The defendant did not fail to take reasonable steps to prevent the sores from developing or worsening, he has said.
Throughout the trial, witnesses called by Crown prosecutors have described Epenisa's room — even before his death — as smelling "really, really disgusting", "like a dirty pig" and "like a dead rat". New witness Allan Wheeler, a then-New Zealand Police officer who responded to the scene of Epenisa's death, joined the chorus.
"Something's not right," he recalled a paramedic saying as he arrived at the property in the middle of the night on October 2, 2016.
As he entered Epenisa's room, he spotted a can of deodorising spray but it did no good, he said.
"The smell was quite intense — it's hard to describe," he testified.
"It was hard to deal with at the time — just an intense, intense smell."