Hokitika 10-month-old suffered fatal brain injuries

A 10-month-old Hokitika baby suffered fatal and severe brain injuries and had about 30 bruises on his body, the High Court murder trial of the baby's father David Grant Sinclair heard on Monday.

Sinclair is being tried by a jury of the murder of his son CJ White, who died in Christchurch on July 10 last year as a result of injuries suffered in his home in Bonar Drive, Hokitika.

Sinclair pleaded not guilty when the murder charge was read to him in the Greymouth Courthouse on Tuesday.

Opening the case for the Crown, prosecutor Will Taffs alleged that Sinclair inflicted the injuries and it was not the first occasion CJ had been physically abused by Sinclair.

Sinclair claimed the baby had been sleeping with him and that Sinclair had fallen asleep while watching Netflix, only to be woken by a thud.

"The thud occurred as CJ fell out and hit the floor. You will hear that this is the explanation that the defendant repeated to his family, first responders, police and other professionals," Mr Taffs said.

The Crown says that CJ's severe injuries, which included a significant brain injury, bilateral skull fractures, bilateral retinal haemorrhages, brain bleeding and swelling, along with approximately 30 bruises, were "inconsistent" with falling on to a carpeted floor.

"More than that, the injures all viewed together are inconsistent with any accident that might of occurred in the house."

Mr Taffs told the jury that Sinclair had become the sole caregiver of CJ six and a half weeks earlier. He also cared for his 11-year-old son.

Until this incident CJ had been a good sleeper but in the lead up to CJ's death he was teething and not sleeping well.

"In addition to his teething, CJ would have been in significant discomfort from bruising around his scrotum and groin area, which occurred a week earlier — another inflicted injury."

Prior to the incident a mate had visited Sinclair and told authorities he did not notice any visible injuries or bruising on CJ. Sinclair described CJ as looking like he was half asleep with his eyes half open after the baby allegedly fell out of bed.

"Almost immediately Sinclair contacted his mum."

Mr Taffs said the jury that medical professionals rejected the idea that the injuries were the result of falling out of bed.

"In any event, CJ's injuries are not consistent with any accident which could have occurred from a fall in the house.

"The Crown will say a more accurate chain of events can be gleaned from the defendant's phone. For example, at 3.26am Sinclair Googled, "does a baby's head flop backwards from concussion?

"Sinclair made the Google search as he was starting to realise how serious CJ's injuries were."

Mr Taffs said the searches were made in "incognito" mode and did not appear ordinarily in people's search history.

"After the searches, Sinclair's phone then showed what you might expect to be quite normal use.

Then later he Googles again, in incognito mode, "what does it mean when my one-year-old's baby's neck has gone all floppy, after a fall out of bed?".

Sinclair then looked at a link about loss of consciousness. At 4.20am, almost an hour after he first Googled, Sinclair contacted his mother. She was at the house within five minutes, called 111 at 4.34am, and performed CPR until emergency services arrived.

His mother noticed bruising on CJ's forehead and his shoulder.

Mr Taffs said CJ was eventually flown to Christchurch Hospital and put on life support. It was turned off at 11.45am that day, and he died 20 minutes later. Sinclair repeated on numerous occasions that he should not have fallen asleep and CJ had fallen out of bed.

A nurse who arrived at the scene assessed CJ, who was only taking five breathes per minute. Other first responders arrived and CJ was given oxygen to help his breathing. CJ was unresponsive and his pupils were fixed and dilated.

The baby was flown the Christchurch Hospital and following treatment, and due to the severity of the injuries it was observed surgical intervention would not assist. It was assessment that CJ's injuries were unsurvivable and after consultation with CJ's family he was removed from life support.

Regarding the additional bruising, Sinclair provided a number of explanations, saying the three to CJ's forehead occurred when CJ hit himself with a toy or rattle in the bath, and the groin and scrotum bruising was caused by clicking him into the car seat.

Mr Taffs said the Crown did not accept any of Sinclair's explanations for CJ's injuries, alleging they were all a result of physical abuse.

"The Crown also says the injuries were not one off. CJ received a broken bone in his foot about three weeks earlier, along with bruising.

"The Crown does not accept CJ fell off the bed. CJ's injuries were not accidental. The Crown says there were inflicted by Sinclair, in what must have been a moment of anger," Mr Taffs said.

Sinclair's lawyer Andrew McKenzie told the jury CJ fell down the stairs to his death.

"Sinclair is guilty of not ringing 111 quick enough, lying to the police and not taking safety precautions to stop his baby falling down stairs, but he is not guilty of the crime of murder," Mr McKenzie said in his opening address.

Evidence will be heard from 27 Crown witnesses. The trial is expected to run for two weeks.

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