A Hamilton woman thought her partner had been punched in the chest by a teenage girl who had just broken into their car.

But as Vicki Reihana knelt down to check on why her partner, Norman Kingi, was laying on his back on the road outside their Ranui St home, he began gurgling blood.

She then started screaming for help which eventually came in the form of her neighbours who heard the commotion.

Two girls, now aged 14 and 16, today went on trial in the High Court at Hamilton defending a charge of murdering Kingi on July 28, last year.

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Kingi was stabbed by one of three girls who were busted by the couple breaking into their Nissan Primera which was parked outside their home.

Reihana was the first witness to take the stand after the crown and defence delivered their opening submissions to the jury of five men and seven women. She recalled walking down Ranui St with her partner of 30 years when they saw the interior light on in their car and people inside.

As they ran to the car she saw two girls getting out of the back passenger door, while another was still in the driver's seat.

"We ran up the hill to the car and I grabbed the girl in the front."

The 12-year-old had two bottles under her arm, an "alcohol bottle" which looked like a bottle of vodka, and a tall plastic bottle.

Reihana choked back tears as she recalled the final moments of her partner's life as the 12-year-old continued swearing, shouting and trying to wrestle free from her grasp.

She saw the two accused returning, yelling at the couple to let their friend go.

"It was 'let her go', 'let her f****** go or we will do you'," she said.

She said Kingi responded by yelling at the girls that they couldn't "come down here and steal our stuff.

The older accused then walked up to Kingi and threw what she thought was a punch.

"The tall one threw a punch and I thought it was just a punch."

But "the punch" was no punch. It was a knife being driven into her partner's heart.

The 12-year-old then began screaming, Reihana said she turned around to look at her before looking back, her partner was down.

"I turned around again and Norman was on the ground. The girls had taken off up the hill."

She then let the young girl go as she checked on Kingi who by then was gurgling blood.

THE CROWN'S CASE

In opening the crown case, prosecutor Philip Morgan QC submitted that the girls, along with a 12-year-old who is not on trial, had been out in the suburbs of Dinsdale and Nawton breaking into cars.

They had earlier broken into cars on Dinsdale Rd and Thompson Ave before heading to Ranui St.

Once there, they broke into the couple's Nissan Primera. At the same time Kingi, 54, and his partner, Vicki Reihana, had reached Ranui St after walking home from a nearby function.

The two older accused managed to flee towards Ellicott Rd, with Reihana catching and holding the youngest girl against the car.

The two accused saw their friend had been captured so decided to run back and get her.

The older accused was armed with knife, stolen from an earlier car theft, while the now 14-year-old had a screwdriver.

Once they reached their friend and the couple a scuffle ensued and Kingi was stabbed in the left side of his chest, straight into his heart.

Morgan told the jury they will also produce DNA evidence from Kingi and the older accused's blood being on a knife they allege was used to stab him.

He submitted the accused meant to cause serious bodily injury so their friend could escape the custody of Reihana.

Kingi's death was a "probable consequence" of what the pair set out to do, Morgan said.

THE DEFENCE

Ron Mansfield, counsel for the older accused, said his client admitted stabbing Kingi but she did not do it with any murderous intent.

Rather, she was doing it to protect herself against an angry and intoxicated Kingi who was confronting her about the car break-in.

He said the girls went back to the car not to attack the couple but to get their friend who said was being held up against the car "forcefully and roughly".

He added there was no dispute that the group of girls had been breaking into cars that night and stealing items, including the knife used to stab Kingi.

"But they were just young people who had been tampering with vehicles earlier in the night taking items."

He said there was "really no understanding about how injured" Kingi was although his client acknowledged there was blood left on the knife and on her clothing.

In his short opening, Roger Laybourn, counsel for the younger accused, said his client only met his co-accused the night the stabbing took place.

It was an incident that was "all over in a matter of seconds".

ASSISTANCE FOR ACCUSED IN COURT

The accused also each have their own communication assistant, a person who helps dissect the litigation jargon into more simple language for them to comprehend what's being said during the trial.

The trial is also finishing earlier than usual each day, with more regular breaks also being held, to help keep the attention span of the young accused.

The trial, before Justice Timothy Brewer, is set down for two weeks and involves 32 witnesses.