Warning: graphic content.

A West Auckland man accused of murder has recalled the night he attacked his mother, saying he can not remember how many times he hit her in the head with a hammer.

Martin Marinovich killed his mother Noeleen Ann Marinovich on February 7 last year but denies it was murder.

Shortly after midnight, he made a 111 call at the Sturges Rd train station, admitting he attacked the 59-year-old.

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Today at the Auckland High Court, his lawyer Shane Tait opened the defence case and told the jury it was a manslaughter versus murder case.

"He did not intend to kill her."

His client had the right to remain silent but chose not to exercise that right, Tait said.

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"He was full and frank with the police from the moment he made that triple 1 call."

He told police he had attacked his mother, showered and changed before driving away.

His story had not changed, Tait said.

"At the end of the day horrendous behaviour, absolutely horrendous, but not murder."

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Martin Marinovich then took the stand and recalled fighting with his mother over money on the night she died.

"She wanted to go to Queenstown for her birthday, we didn't have enough money. We didn't even have enough money to fix the toilet," Martin Marinovich said.

They faced each other in the lounge and shouted at each other.

"I'm not sure how long we were there for - at some point during that argument, I can only describe it like a light switch turning on."

He got so angry that it was not even anger, it was more like rage, he said.

"I continued to strangle her, essentially for what felt to me like 10, 15 minutes at that point."

He pulled a blanket off the sofa and placed it on her neck. He noticed "blood poured out of her nose".

At that point he believed his mother was dead, he said.

Police working at the scene after Noeleen Marinovich, 59, died in Oratia. Photo / Doug Sherring
Police working at the scene after Noeleen Marinovich, 59, died in Oratia. Photo / Doug Sherring

"That caused me to enter a state I can only describe as total and complete panic."

He paced the lounge and then picked up the hammer, striking her head multiple times.

"I can't remember how many times I hit her."

Tait asked: "Your mother was lying dead on the floor and you didn't call an ambulance, why not?"

He replied he did not know.

"I was in such a state of panic, fear. I didn't even consider it at that time."

Crown prosecutor Robin McCoubrey questioned why Martin Marinovich would attack his mother with a hammer if he believed she was already dead.

The defendant could not explain himself.

"I don't understand my own actions at that point."

McCoubrey further probed Martin Marinovich about the circular bruises on his mother's forearms.

"If the jury were to conclude those were defensive injuries that would pose you real problems wouldn't it?"

"Yes," the defendant replied.

Crown prosecutor Robin McCoubrey. Photo / Sam Hurley
Crown prosecutor Robin McCoubrey. Photo / Sam Hurley

Earlier the 28-year-old told the court about life with his mother, who he had always known suffered from bipolar.

"Particularly when I was younger she would have quite bad manic phases."

She threw things around the house, he said, and had delusions people were coming to get her.

"As a young child you naturally believe what your mother says to you."

He dropped out of university at the end of 2010 but did not tell his family.

"I lied about it. I claimed that I was taking a law degree and then after that, that I was doing a Masters of law degree," he said.

He cared for his mum throughout her worsening health and in the past couple of years it had taken a toll on his sleeping pattern.

"I became incredibly exhausted … it just got away from me … the cleanliness of the house."

Money was "extremely tight" as they relied on his mother's benefit, which was about $549 a week.

But the pair had always maintained an "extremely loving" and close relationship, he said.

As her only child, when she became ill there was "no question" he would look after her.

When she was hospitalised about a week before her death he confided in a family friend, Janet Daniel, he could no longer cope. Martin Marinovich said this was a "cry for help".

Martin Marinovich's trial began in the High Court at Auckland on Monday. Photo / File
Martin Marinovich's trial began in the High Court at Auckland on Monday. Photo / File

Daniel has previously told the court about that exchange and said she had never seen him in that state before.

"And I said to him: 'Don't take her home. Leave her at the hospital'," she said.

Daniel also told the court Martin Marinovich was ordinarily gentle and non-violent.

"They got along very well. They had a few words sometimes, everybody does."

He had been looking after his mother since he was a boy, the court heard.

Daniel said the past few years had been really hard for him because Noeleen Marinovich had become incontinent and would often collapse in the house.

"Martin would have to physically pick her up off the floor."

The defence also called an expert witness today that said Martin Marinovich had only been diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) following his arrest.

Dr Mhairi Duffy said he showed a number of the features expected from someone with ASD, including difficulty changing mindset and lack of intonation in his speech.

She said he suffered from relatively severe symptoms of ASD without having an intellectual disability.

That was "clearly absent in this case" as it was in about half of cases.

Martin Marinovich's trial, which is presided over by Justice Tracey Walker, resumes tomorrow.