Man denies killing partner's child

An Auckland man on trial for murdering his partner's 2-year-old is accused of hitting the little girl in the stomach hard enough to split an internal organ.

This caused the infection that killed her, the High Court at Auckland heard today.

Michael Joseph Martin, 25, denies killing Leilani Mary-Jane Lotonu'u at their Manurewa home on June 9, 2012.

He also pleaded not guilty to a charge of child neglect for failing to provide Leilani with medical assistance.

In her opening statement to the jury, Crown prosecutor Christine Gordon, QC, said Leilani was pronounced dead shortly before 6am on June 10, 2012 when paramedics were unable to save her.

The day before, Martin and Leilani's mother Amy Lorigan were looking after the little girl. When Ms Lorigan went out for about an hour, Leilani was left at home with Martin.

Ms Lorigan returned to find her daughter "noticeably unwell" and vomiting throughout the afternoon and evening. It was during Ms Lorigan's absence that Martin administered a "violent assault", Ms Gordon said.

Ms Gordon said when Ms Lorigan arrived home Martin told her he couldn't be with her any more. He did not mention what he later told police that Leilani had fallen of a chair.

The Crown says this was a lie.

Expert evidence would suggest the little girl was in great pain but would have survived if she received prompt treatment, Ms Gordon said.

The Crown would also produce evidence indicating Martin struggled to look after Leilani because he wasn't her father.

But Martin had originally "misled" police when he said: "We're all one family, that's what I say," and had described Leilani as "our beautiful girl". He didn't say anything about telling Ms Lorigan their relationship was over.

Witnesses were expected to talk about Leilani appearing to be scared of Martin at times, while Ms Lorigan would say she did not cause her daughter's fatal injuries, Ms Gordon said.

"Amy Lorigan loved her daughter Leilani. The accused, however, struggled to accept a child that wasn't his and was going to leave."

Martin and Ms Lorigan had another daughter together and had been in a relationship since the beginning of 2011.

Defence lawyer Lorraine Smith will make her opening statement after lunch.

The trial, before Justice Graham Lang, is expected to last about three weeks. The Crown will call 35 witnesses.

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