'Killer' slur not fair, says mum

Amy Lorigan struggled to raise two small daughters but says she is not a killer. Photo / Doug Sherring
Amy Lorigan struggled to raise two small daughters but says she is not a killer. Photo / Doug Sherring
Amy Lorigan admits she wasn't the perfect mum, but says she didn't deserve to be branded a child killer.

A majority verdict on February 21 found her ex-boyfriend Michael Martin not guilty of murdering her 2-year-old daughter Leilani Lotonu'u.

During the High Court trial last month, Martin's lawyer Lorraine Smith, who also represented Chris Kahui, painted Lorigan, 21, as an abusive and uncaring mother who failed to keep food in the cupboard.

Lorigan acknowledges she struggled with two young daughters on her own for much of the time.

"I know I wasn't a perfect mother, but who is?"

On June 9, 2012, Leilani suffered a savage blow that split her duodenum - an organ in her abdomen - in two places.

The blow was from either a very forceful stomp or from a weapon such as the pool cues kept in the garage of their Manurewa home.

The court heard how Leilani appeared happy and healthy when Lorigan left her in Martin's care to go shopping for an hour.

When she returned, Leilani was sick, Lorigan said.

No medical attention was sought and she died 18 hours later.

Lorigan, who also has an infant daughter with Martin, said she wishes she had sought help for her little girl but said the in-court character assassination was unfair.

Lorigan is 50kg and barely 1.5m tall. Testimony in court described the force of the fatal blow as akin to a kick from a horse or being dropped from a height on to a post.

Lorigan has moved in with her mother Marie Chapman and stepfather Mark who have custody of her youngest daughter, Miami.

Mark Chapman said the family were shattered.

"We have done enough crying to fill three Olympic-size swimming pools."

They fear bumping into Martin, who comes from a neighbouring South Auckland suburb and have taken out a trespass order preventing him coming near their home.

"When he walked out of that court smiling at us, it was absolutely disgusting. It was inviting some form of confrontation. But I can't do anything. It would make me as bad as he is."

Since his acquittal, Martin has set up a Facebook page and posted pictures of himself in gang insignia and brandishing what looks like a broken chair leg.

Lorigan said she was horrified after being alerted to the pictures.

Detective Senior Sergeant Dave Pizzini, who led the inquiry, said the prosecution case relied on circumstantial strands of evidence.

"We put our best evidence forward, we really can't do much more than that."

Martin's lawyer Lorraine Smith said her client had "nothing to add" and declined an interview request.

Smith received $75,791 including GST in legal aid to represent Martin, according to figures supplied by the Ministry of Justice.

The case bore some parallels to the Kahui trial. Then, the defence laid the blame for the murders with the mother, Macsyna King.

Despite Kahui's acquittal for murder, a coroner found the twins Cris and Cru Kahui died while in the "sole custody, care and control of their father".

Leilani's death has been referred back to the coroner.

- By Bevan Hurley of the Herald on Sunday

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