When the great-grandmother of Nevaeh Ager used the phone on the wall of the empty Te Puke police station to ask for help getting her granddaughter, she was told no.
Shortly after that call the two-year-old was dead, killed by her father Aaron George Izett.
Izett is on trial at the High Court in Rotorua facing a number of assault and wounding charges and one charge of murder, that between March 20 and March 21 last year he murdered his daughter.
On the trial’s opening day defence lawyer Nicholas Chisnell said there would be no dispute his client killed her.
“Mr Izett accepted he killed his daughter, he accepts he’s responsible for her death. . . the physical act is not in dispute.”
Chisnell claimed, however, that his client should be found not guilty by reason of insanity.
“A person may be so disordered in their thinking they lack the capacity to be held responsible for the crime.”
The Crown case was simpler.
Regular methamphetamine user Izett killed his daughter in a “meth rage”, and according to Crown prosecutor Anna Pollett inflicted “assault, on assault, on assault before drowning her”.
Neveah was found in the estuary behind Izett’s Little Waihi residence, weighed down by two rocks with a combined weight of 80kg.
Pollett said later evidence will show a litany of injuries on the toddler, likely caused by a weapon or weapons.
On the third day of the trial evidence was heard from Nicky Sturgess, grandmother of Neveah’s mother Alyson Ager.
She revealed she had travelled to Little Waihi while Alyson was in hospital after giving birth to a son with items for the new baby.
“You’ve come to get my daughter? Go to the toilet and f*** off,” was Izett’s welcome, she said.
“He was still there, telling me to f*** off. By then I’d had enough, I said we’re going.”
Sturgess also described, sometimes through tears, the last time she saw her granddaughter.
“I just scooped her up in my arms. She had a big smile for me.”
Sturgess said she and husband John were so alarmed at Izett’s behaviour they attempted to contact the police, first at the Te Puke station.
They found it closed, but with a phone, so called the police to ask for help retrieving Neveah.
“They said I wasn’t custody or something.”
She said the police advised her to go to Tauranga Hospital where Alyson was.
“She was the only one that could do it [take Neveah].”
Sturgess said she raised those fears with Alyson later.
“I told her when we arrived there the place was in a mess and there was no way I wanted her to go back there. . . I was concerned about Neveah but she said she’d be alright there,” Sturgess said.
“In my mind I was not going to leave her there.”
Under questioning from Chisnell, Sturgess admitted they had in the past given Izett an “ultimatum” about taking Alyson and Neveah away if he didn’t get a job.
“You also said to the police that he [Izett] appeared to have on his mind the fact you were going to take Neveah away,” Chisnell said.
“Yes,” Sturgess replied.
Evidence was also given by John Sturgess, who said that while he had always deemed Izett’s behaviour as erratic, “raving and talking to pictures on the wall,” he never believed he would hurt her.
It was while he gave evidence that Izett directed an outburst towards a juror.
“That’s my daughter. Stop staring at me,” he said.
Justice Christine cleared the court to warn Izett about further outbursts, also asking John Sturgess to leave the dock.
“Sorry John,” Izett said.
The trial is set to continue and is expected to last three weeks and hear from 60 witnesses.