Niwhai Bryan died from a neck compression applied when he had a very high level of alcohol in his body.

That was the conclusion reached by the forensic pathologist who conducted an autopsy on the 66-year-old's body following his death in a Susan St, Rotorua, garage on November 10 last year.

In the High Court at Rotorua Bryan's step son, Taratoa Hori Hokianga, a rigger, now 39, has denied causing his manslaughter by an unlawful act, defined in the charge as an assault.

Dr Rexson Tse, who was giving evidence via audio-visual link from Auckland City Hospital to a jury in the High Court at Rotorua this morning described the autopsy he carried out on Bryan's body.

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He'd found small blood spots inside Bryan's lips and eyes which indicated there had been a blockage of the blood flow to his head.

He found injuries on both the outside of Bryan's neck as well as to its inside structure and there was a 2-3cm abrasion on the right side of his head which Tse classified as being caused by a blunt force injury.

Questioned by Crown prosecutor Duncan McWilliam, he said that was the type of injury that could have been caused in a number of ways, including a fist, someone hitting the ground or being struck by a hammer.

The pathologist was unable to say with any certainty how long pressure, such as squeezing, would have to be applied to a person's neck for death to occur but said it would be seconds rather than minutes.

Referring to the internal injuries he found, Tse said there was bruising behind the neck structure and the side of Bryan's neck and jaw.

Questioned about his view of what caused Bryan's death Tse responded it was likely to have been by compression, which he defined as pressure being applied to Bryan's neck.

Samples taken from various parts of Bryan's body, including his blood, revealed he died with a very high level of alcohol in his system - at least four times the legal driving limit.

He agreed with Hokianga's lawyer, Brian Foote, he couldn't say exactly whether it was blood flow restriction or nerve compression, or both, that had caused Bryan's death.

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In evidence read to the court police officer John Ure said when he initially talked with Hokianga, who he referred to as Tuts, he'd smelt strongly of alcohol, complained of a sore back and repeatedly dozed off in the back of a patrol car.

When he was taken to the police station Hokianga had chosen to remain silent when contact couldn't be made with his lawyer, the late Harry Edward, and as he was obviously tired he'd been left to sleep.

In an a formal admission also read to the court McWilliam revealed Bryan had served a number of prison terms for sexual offending involving young girls in the 1970s and 1980s. These included the rape of a girl aged between 12 and 16.

The Crown has closed its case with Foote indicating he will be calling Hokianga to testify on his own behalf in what he described as "this tragic case".