Murder accused denies ever striking toddler

March 28, 2017 | By More

Troy Kevin Taylor has told the jury at his murder trial that his repeated concussion injuries never caused him to lose control or strike the baby he is accused of assaulting and killing.

The 23-year-old gave evidence on the seventh day of his trial before Justice Cameron Mander and a jury in the High Court at Christchurch.

Taylor denies charges of assaulting the child on July 2, 2015, and murdering him on July 3. The Crown has called evidence from 38 witnesses. Its case is that Taylor – sleep deprived and suffering the effects of repeated concussions – had “lost it” and injured 14-month-old Ihaka Paora Braxton Stokes, who died of head injuries.

Taylor gave evidence of his own repeated injuries from the time he got his first concussion in a sports injury when he was aged 11 or 12. The last one had occurred in 2014, before he met Ihaka’s mother, Mikala Stokes.

On that occasion he was hospitalised for 10 days. He was left feeling nauseous and dizzy and lost feeling in his right leg for a time. He was unable to work. At the time of Ihaka’s death, he was taking medication which was improving his symptoms.

Defence counsel Phil Shamy asked him about his relationship with the toddler, who was not his natural son. “I don’t care what anyone thinks, He is my son. I used to consider him my little shadow. He would follow me everywhere.”

He told the trial: “I never took my frustrations out on anybody else.”

He had never lost control or struck Ihaka, he said.

He and Mikala Stokes had discussed the children, and he had told her he wanted to adopt Ihaka and the other child she was expecting. He said Miss Stokes was “my best friend – I loved her”.

The other defence counsel Simon Shamy delivered the defence opening address, saying “the nub of the defence case is that Mikala Stokes caused the injuries that killed Ihaka, and not Troy Taylor”.

Taylor would give evidence, and other witnesses that would say they had never seen him irritable with Ihaka, and he was kind and caring at all times. The tattooist who dealt with him on the day of Ihaka’s death, would say he was “calm and happy, and talking about the weekend”.

After he returned to the home in Bryndwr on that night, he found Ihaka was already in bed. He checked him about 8pm and found him simply lying in the cot staring at the ceiling. He did not move or react, and Taylor got into the cot to comfort him. He noticed he was quite floppy and seemed to be breathing funny.

When Miss Stokes called him to bed, he went into bed with her and they watched a DVD. There was no discussion about Ihaka.

“He lay there in bed and his worlds were colliding,” said Simon Shamy. He knew there was something seriously wrong with the child he loved so much, and he knew this was likely caused by Miss Stokes, the woman he loved and who had given him Ihaka.

“What could he do that would prevent blame being put on Mikala?” Simon Shamy asked.

After agonising for a time, he went back to Ihaka’s room where he saw the child was pale and not breathing. He rushed back to Miss Stokes’ room to tell her something was wrong, call the ambulance, and begin CPR.

“He will say he lied that night to protect the woman he loved,” Simon Shamy said.

Before the Crown completed presentation of its case, the prosecutor called evidence from neighbours of Taylor and Miss Stokes about an incident they had witnessed together.

Angela Marshall, a resident of Truman Road, Bryndwr, said she was aware of new neighbours moving in about June 2015. She did not meet or talk to them – a pregnant woman, an adult man, and a small boy with blonde hair.

They were quiet neighbours, she said.

About four weeks before the boy’s death, she was out at her clothesline when she heard the boy grizzling and heard the man “yelling ‘Shut up’, really loudly.” She was worried that there was a domestic dispute happening and looked through a hole in the fence. She could see the man was working on a washing machine.

She said he was “quite agitated” and described him going inside and bringing out the baby and placing him on a rug with toys on the grass. He had carried the baby “like a carry bag”.

Cross-examined, she said she did not know at that stage that there was a puppy next door. She did not see who the man was saying “Shut up” to, but she did not see or hear a dog on that day.

Taylor later gave evidence that he vaguely remembered that day. He said he would not have told Ihaka to shut up, but they had a puppy he said that kind of thing to the dog all the time.

The trial is continuing.

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