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‘I’ve sinned. I murdered my daughter’: Damning police interview played at dad's trial

Craig Kapitan,
Publish Date
Fri, 1 Mar 2024, 9:07AM
Photo / File
Photo / File

‘I’ve sinned. I murdered my daughter’: Damning police interview played at dad's trial

Craig Kapitan,
Publish Date
Fri, 1 Mar 2024, 9:07AM

“I came in the room and my daughter was sleeping. As soon as my daughter saw me she cried, and then I was angry. I thought giving her a hiding would end my anger.”  

That was one of the initial admissions a young Auckland father gave to police in May 2022, as he sat down for a recorded interview just days after the death of his 8-month-old daughter.  

Over the next several hours, his shifting account would become even more self-incriminatory, culminating with him demonstrating a rapid-fire succession of slaps and punches that appeared forceful enough to have seriously hurt an adult, nevertheless an infant.  

“I’ve sinned,” he said through a translator. “I murdered my daughter.”  

Jurors watched the lengthy video yesterday in the High Court at Auckland - one of the final pieces of evidence produced by Crown prosecutors in the 26-year-old Manurewa resident’s three-week murder trial. He has pleaded not guilty to murder, with his lawyers telling jurors at the outset of the trial that despite what said he never had murderous intent.  

Neither the defendant nor his daughter can yet be identified due to an ongoing suppression order.  

The child was pronounced dead after failed attempts to revive her at Watford Medical Centre in Ōtara, where she was taken around 9.30pm on Monday, May 23, 2022. It was the Friday prior that police investigators would later focus on as they interviewed the child’s father. 

Early on, the man acknowledged having “smacked” his daughter’s legs four times and her hand once, which he attributed to both “discipline” and “anger”. 

“My daughter, when she sees me she didn’t seem to attach to me,” he said, explaining that he was close to his toddler son but frustrated that he and his daughter didn’t seem to have bonded. “That’s why I smacked her.” 

As Detective Saulo Paea patiently had him describe what happened again and again, he noted the many bruises that were found on the child’s stomach. The father eventually conceded he also “pushed” the baby’s stomach three or four times after the slaps. 

About two hours into the interview, with the father still maintaining he didn’t do anything that could have caused the child’s death, the detective changed tack. He read the suspect the post-mortem report indicating the baby’s cause of death - complications from a blunt force injury - and cataloguing her many injuries: a ruptured bowel, possibly caused by a foot or fist, a resulting infection of the stomach, a skull fracture, multiple fractured ribs, leg and finger fractures, as well as bruising to her stomach and face. 

After the detective finished the list there was a long silence of nearly a minute - each man dressed in shades of grey and staring at the other in the drab Manukau Police Station interview room, the only splash of colour coming from the red blouse worn by the translator sitting between them. 

“This is your chance to come and tell me the truth,” Paea said. 

He then pushed a photo across the table - a post-mortem photo of the defendant’s daughter, showing her many injuries. For another 40 seconds, the room was completely silent as the father bent forward and looked at the photo, saying nothing. 

“Tell me about the injuries,” the detective said. 

“I don’t know,” he responded. 

The detective continued: “There’s more than three to four bruises on [the baby], on her stomach. So what you’re saying does not make sense.” 

“Those injuries are new to me,” the defendant replied. 

The interview initially ended at 9.07pm, about two-and-a-half hours after it began. But the three people in the room continued to make small talk about their hometowns after the camera was turned off, the detective testified today. At that point, he said, the defendant admitted he caused his daughter’s death and agreed to turn the camera back on, explaining that he had been afraid to say so earlier. The recorded interview resumed at 10.31pm. 

“My daughter was sleeping. When she looked at me she cried ... and I was angry,” he said this time. “Then I beat her up. I slapped her legs and her hand and then I punched her stomach.” 

He recalled his wife asking, “Why is my girl crying?” when he brought the infant to her moments after the attack. “I didn’t tell her.” 

The next day, he said, the infant started feeling unwell then became “really, really unwell” in the two days that followed leading up to her death. 

“What did you think would happen to your 9-month-old baby if you punched her that hard?” the detective asked. “Because you’re a big man and [she] was a small baby.” 

The defendant responded, as he had repeatedly in the previous hours: “I never thought she would die.” 

After saying he had sinned and murdered the child, the defendant added: “I don’t know why I did this to my daughter. I love my children.” 

He demonstrated the slaps and punches - holding the back of the pretend baby’s head as he stood in front of the interview table with his chair pushed back and pantomimed the blows. And then the interview ended. 

During the brief courtroom cross-examination of the detective that followed the playing of the interview yesterday, defence lawyer Mark Williams again alluded to murderous intent, asking Paea if he had ever explained the legal definition of murder to the defendant. The detective said he did not. 

The trial is expected to resume this morning before Justice Laura O’Gorman and the jury. 

Craig Kapitan is an Auckland-based journalist covering courts and justice. He joined the Herald in 2021 and has reported on courts since 2002 in three newsrooms in the US and New Zealand. 

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