A man accused of killing a young boy in Southland in 2015 changed his story, from telling police he did not know what happened to saying he fell on the boy but “seemed fine,” an investigation has heard. .
The man, the boy’s mother’s partner, was charged with the murder of the 17-month-old boy, but a few weeks later he was found dead in custody.
All names are deleted, including those of witnesses.
Coroner Marcus Elliott acknowledged the stress of family members who had waited years for an investigation, to investigate, firstly, how the child died and, in a second phase, scheduled for next year, the role of the authorities. child protection that family members say failed them.
The boy was found dead in his bed by his mother in October 2015; She hadn’t seen him the night before when she got home, after he spent the day caring for her boyfriend at their home.
Police said they found meth pipes and ecstasy pills on the property.
A pathologist told the court that the boy had “rare” injuries to the upper spine caused by pressure from the head downward, strongly suggesting contact with a smooth surface such as a carpeted floor or upholstered furniture. .
“The amount of force required to basically crush the fractures in those vertebrae has to be really great. You really would have to have quite a strong pushing force for that to happen.”
The injuries were “very unlikely” from falling backward, although they could be the result of someone falling on the child, or if he was forcibly thrown or hit hard, the pathologist said.
Fluid from the lungs on the bed indicated that the child probably died within 30 minutes to an hour.
“It strongly suggests that it has been there for a period of at least tens of minutes in the process of dying.”
The court heard from the investigating police officer that the boy had previous fractures and injuries that were suspicious.
“There is a constellation of peripheral bone fractures of different ages that it is highly unlikely that they are all due to accidental injuries,” the officer said.
There was no evidence that the mother was responsible for the injuries, the officer said.
The court saw two police interviews with the man. In the first, he told them that he did not know what had happened.
“I haven’t touched it. The autopsy is wrong,” he said.
The video showed him agitated, rubbing his head and crying, and repeatedly standing up and saying he wanted to leave.
“How do you know it was a blow to the head, not a fall?” he asked the police officer at one point.
Soon after, in a second interview, the man changed his story, saying instead that he had been holding the baby in the backyard.
“I tripped on the skateboard outside. And fell on top of him.
“He was still alive, he seemed fine. He was still playing. Could he have died from that?”
The pathologist said it would have been clear to anyone looking that the boy was “immediately and obviously seriously injured.”
If he hadn’t died, he would have been at least a quadriplegic, they said.
Police said they found a cobwebbed skateboard in the garage.
The officer asked the man why he hadn’t told them about the fall earlier.
“I didn’t think it was relevant because it seemed fine,” he replied.
The police then texted him from the mother and asked what he had said to the man.
“‘What did you do to my boy?'” He replied.
During the investigation, the police officer was asked if he had any doubt that the man killed the boy. “Did not say.
The coroner has yet to release any findings.