Squirming and gasping for air, her face forced against a pillow by her father, Esme Claire Kinraid suffered a death described as "true horror".
Philip Murray Kinraid, 29, appeared at the High Court in New Plymouth today and was sentenced to four years and three months in prison.
Last November, the chemical engineer pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of his two-year-old daughter at their Hawera home on June 26, 2015.
The court heard Kinraid worked for Fonterra but the company told the Herald he worked for another company and did the occassional contract work for them.
Kinraid has been described by a family member as a "gentle giant" caught in a terrible, tragic accident - but others say his actions were a horrific, deliberate crime.
Justice Rebecca Ellis said, that on the night of June 26, Kinraid was putting his two children, including a crying Esme, to bed at their Victoria St home.
Kinraid wrapped his daughter in a blanket, but the toddler kicked it off.
He flipped Esme over, placing her face down on a pillow.
However, what he did next, between 7pm and 7.30pm, robbed his daughter of a "future in an instant".
The large, broad man pressed firmly on the back of the two-year-old's head with his right arm.
Esme began "squirming, making noises, inhaling and exhaling while she screamed", Justice Ellis said.
Kinraid then left his children and later the home after receiving a call from work. He told police it appeared his daughter was breathing fine when he left the room.
When he returned a few hours later he watched YouTube videos with his partner - and went to check on his children.
Esme appeared "unnaturally stiff" and colourless.
"You turned her over and noticed one of her eyes was half open," Justice Ellis told the court.
After attempting to perform CPR on his daughter, Kinraid rang 111 and told the operator, "I think I may have killed my daughter".
Emergency services arrived just after 11pm, but by 11.21pm Esme was pronounced dead.
A friend of Esme's mother and a Victoria St neighbour recalled the night of toddler's death.
"There were lots of ambulances and police cars, lots of police in plain clothes, so we knew it was something serious," she told the Herald.
"I followed the story, it was so sad."
She said Esme appeared to be a normal, bubbly young child, but she barely saw Kinraid, who seemingly would keep to himself.
Crown prosecutor Justin Marinovich told the court Esme's mother, whose name is suppressed, has been suffering a "clear feeling of loss and pain".
"She is now a mother growing old without the memories and achievements of her daughter."
He said Esme would have suffered tremendously during the final moments of her life.
"The horror that Esme must've felt in the last minutes of her life when her face was held into the pillow and her life taken away.
"There is no doubt in her last minutes she experienced true horror."
Justice Ellis said the cause of Esme's death was a "fatal neck compression".
"A grown man holding a child down against her will. I do not accept what [Kinraid] did was not violent ... she was struggling against [him], she had no chance of escape.
"Esme is dead, her life and her future were taken away in an instant."
Some of Kinraid's family members had travelled from Dunedin, where he had been staying with his brother, for the sentencing.
They were seated in the public gallery and visibly distressed when Kinraid was led away to the cells.
Kinraid's mother, Jacinta Kinraid, declined to comment when phoned by the Herald.
However, a family member, who wished not to be named, said Kinraid was a "lovable giant" involved in an "unfortunate tragedy".
"He's a lovely gentle boy, he wouldn't do that deliberately.
"He had a good job - he was doing well."
The detective in charge of the case, Daniel Coomey, said he couldn't comprehend how Kinraid's actions could be conceived as an accident.
"Most definitely not," he said when asked after the case if Esme's death was unwitting.
"No length of time served in prison is going to lesson the harm caused by Mr Kinraid."
He said Esme's mother, who he described as "loving and nurturing", and family were "absolutely devastated and distraught".
"Their sense loss is immeasurable."
For a child to lose their life at the hands of the very person they rely upon for protection was beyond comprehension, he said.
"I think it is important to stress that there is nothing any member of Esme's family, aside from her father, could have done to predict or prevent what occurred."
Sensible Sentencing Trust national spokesman for child abuse Scott Guthrie said the sentence doesn't align with the offence Kinraid committed.
"It clearly says to New Zealand that a baby's life is only worth about 17 months - four years and three months sentence, a third of that, 17 months," he said, alluding to the possibility of an early release on parole.
"It's wrong, and the Minister of Justice needs to step in and start sorting this out.
"In the sentencing notes, it's quite clear that this child was restrained and smothered ... It only begs belief what the child went through, [she] was restrained and died a horrible death."
He also criticised a reduction in the sentence for Kinraid's early guilty plea.
"Why should any offender be given a discount for saying 'hey I've committed a heinous crime'?'"
Kinraid's lawyer, Paul Keegan, said Esme's death was a "tragic accident" after his client "misjudged his weight".
He said Kinraid's actions were not filled with any "malice, any anger, or any frustration".
He noted Kinraid appeared "shocked, horrified and suicidal" at the discovery of his child's death.
Kinraid had asked police officers to shoot him when emergency services arrived that June night.
Keegan said if not for his client's admission of guilt, the circumstances surrounding Esme's death may never have been fully known.
He said Kinraid's actions were "stupid, misguided, clumsy, and ultimately tragic".
The court heard Kinraid's former partner would never let Kinraid care for their child if he "was ever a little frustrated".
The pair have not spoken since their daughter's death.
In the small southern Taranaki town, Kinraid's former neighbour, who asked not to be named, told the Herald the burly, well educated man and his family appeared to be "normal, lovely people".
"There were kids playing in the backyard like any other normal children ... it's a tragedy, very sad."
Detective Coomey urged New Zealanders to realise protecting a child is "everyone's business".
"From family, friends and , neighbours, to schools, health providers and community groups. Everyone has a part to play in protecting our most vulnerable.
"Esme's death is sadly yet another example of our country's unacceptable child mortality rate."