Dad’s ’feeling’ about baby’s death

The jury at the trial of a man accused of murdering his nine-month-old daughter has heard him telling police about the moment he realised his daughter was "gone". 

Donovan Michael Duff, 42, is on trial at the High Court in Rotorua, charged with the 2016 murder of daughter, Maija Puhi-Duff, in Turangi.

Duff has maintained his innocence since being charged with one count of murder.

As the trial entered the afternoon of its third day, the jury of seven men and five women were played a DVD of the police interview between Duff and Taupo CIB Detective Constable Paul Meharry.

Duff said he was alone with his daughter and awoke on the couch where they had been sleeping and noticed phlegm on the baby.

He said he cleared the phlegm away and put his head to her chest and  was unable to detect a heartbeat, so he attempted CPR.

"I knew she was gone but thought, believed she was gone, but trying to tell myself no, she hasn't gone, but yeah and then it was like I don't know what to do."

Asked by Meharry about "unexplained injuries" on his daughter that had been indicated by a pathologist, Duff said he had almost smothered her on the Thursday night before her death.

"[I was] waking up to to screaming and then realising, oh where's this screaming coming from and it's from underneath me," he said.

"I rolled off her and take her in my arms and then just try to calm her. . . I just realised I'd just smothered her so I'm just trying to comfort her."

Duff told the detective the following night, Puhi-Duff fell from the bed, hitting the floor - and she vomited several times on the Friday - something he put down to the possibility she had eaten something she shouldn't have while in the care of a relative.

He said they had both fallen asleep on the couch when he awoke Saturday morning to find her dead.

Duff said he put his daughter into his truck and went looking for Melina Puhi, the child's mother, and said what happened when he found her at his sisters - and why he had sought her out.

"I just knew [I had to] be close to someone. . .  I didn't know what to do, how to deal with what I was experiencing," he said.

"We just cried in each others arms until her parents turned up and the paramedics."

Meharry also asked Duff what his "gut feeling" was when he realised his daughter was not breathing.

"My gut feeling was have I squashed her again by being on top of her or was it the fall? I was thinking all sorts. . . it was like, just come to the realisation that she is gone and know what I mean, trying to tell myself she isn't."

He admitted he had shaken her in the past.

"At times, sometimes to comfort her, you know, throw and catch her," he said.

"Sometimes out of frustration I'll pick her up and try and get her mind off grizzling by throwing her up and sometimes, maybe I don't know. I felt like it wasn't excessive."

The trial, before Justice Mathew Down, is expected to last two weeks.



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