The day before the body of Maketū toddler Nevaeh Ager was found her great-grandparents had planned to take her from her "erratic" father and alleged murderer, a court has heard.
John Sturgess and his wife Nicky Sturgess
gave evidence in the High Court at Rotorua today.
Nevaeh's father, Aaron George Izett, 38, is on trial for the 2-year-old's murder at Little Waihi, Maketū between March 20 and 21 last year.
Izett has not denied causing the fatal injuries but has denied murdering his daughter, whose naked body was found by police on the tidal flats
on March 21, 2019.
The Crown alleges Izett's "meth rage" led to him killing his daughter and assaulting three other people between March 18 and March 21, 2019.
Nicky Sturgess told the court today that she and her husband had visited the Tio Pl home of Izett and his former partner Alyson Ager about four times and Izett was often
blowing on his P-pipe and
"ranting and raving" about all his things on the wall and a prized book about his ancestors.
Sturgess said she and her husband were concerned Izett did not have a job and was using drugs, and that most of the upkeep of the house was from Ager's benefit.
"We told him he needed to sort himself out and get a job and support his family."
"We threatened him that if he didn't we would come back and take Alyson
and Nevaeh back to Flaxmere," she told the court.
Ager gave birth to her and Izett's second child on March 18, 2019.
she and her husband bought gifts and drove to Tio Pl two days later.
"We were going to take Nevaeh and Aaron up to the hospital to see Alyson and the new baby but he
told us to f-off and leave," she said.
She said when she went inside the house to use the toilet she had to step over a mess.
Nevaeh, with a big smile on her face, ran to her great-grandmother who scooped the toddler up in her arms.
"I told Nevaeh I was going to take her to her mummy."
She said Izett was not happy because of earlier tensions and during the ensuing heated argument, her husband was punched in the side of the head and his shoulder area.
The two men then exchanged punches and Sturgess intervened. As the couple drove off Izett threw a handful of stones at the car, the court heard.
She told her granddaughter at the hospital she did not want her to go back to the house.
"But Alyson was confident that Aaron would look after Nevaeh," she said.
"However, in my mind, I wasn't going to leave it there and we were going to go back to the house to collect Nevaeh and take them both back to Flaxmere."
But on the way back to Little Waihi, Ager got a call from Izett's mother in Australia.
"I could hear Alyson screaming on the phone about what's going on."
She said when they arrived at Little Waihi, police officers were already there.
John Sturgess said he and his wife had difficulties communicating with Izett even when he and their granddaughter lived in Flaxmere.
"Aaron was quite an abrasive sort of person to be living with. We certainly had pretty strong arguments from time to time. His behaviour was erratic, he was abusing substances and off his face most of the time.
"One of the main ones I raised with him was being unemployed and not actively seeking work and he seemed quite happy to cruise and shrugged it off."
He said Izett was "pretty agitated" when they arrived on March 20 and refused to allow them to take the child to the hospital, telling them to "f-off".
"Nevaeh was happy to see her nan, and she looked as good as gold. It was the last time we saw her alive," said a tearful Mr Sturgess.
When Izett refused to allow them to take Nevaeh they decided to go to Te Puke police station to seek help, particularly given Izett's response.
During questioning by Izett's lawyer Nicholas Chisnall, Mr Sturgess confirmed he described Izett's behaviour on March 20, 2019, to police as "crazy and raving".
"He was obviously very agitated and responded but I can't remember what he said."
John Sturgess said Izett must have thought they were coming to take the child away permanently because of the earlier ultimatum.
"Nevaeh was nicely dressed and cheerful. I did not think Aaron would hurt that kid."
Crown solicitor Anna Pollett earlier said the toddler was the victim of "assault, on assault, on assault" before she was drowned.
A pathologist will give evidence that Nevaeh had suffered severe multiple injuries to her body caused by a weapon or weapons.
There were injuries to her buttocks, face and head, including her lips and ears and about eight to 10 blows. She also had neck injuries that indicated the "degree of force".
The Crown alleges after Izett placed Nevaeh's naked body face-down in the water on mudflats he placed two large rocks on top of her and she drowned.
The trial continues.