Mother left to die in bedroom - Crown

7:42 pm on 3 August 2016

There was food in the cupboards and cleaning products in the bathroom at the Auckland property where Ena Dung starved to death in her bedroom, while lying in her own waste, the Crown says.


Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Ms Dung was found lying on a green plastic sheet, weighing just 29 kilograms, in January last year.

Her daughter, Cindy Taylor, has been charged with her manslaughter while her flatmates and friends - Brian and Luana Taylor - have been charged with failing to get the 76-year-old help, despite knowing she was in danger.

In her closing address to the jury at the High Court in Auckland, Crown prosecutor Natalie Walker said the three defendants shared a small three-bedroom house with one bathroom. All of them would have seen, heard and smelled Ms Dung's suffering.

She said Ms Dung's death was a story of neglect and, in the end, the elderly woman starved to death.

"Ms Dung's shocking weight, 29kg, her emaciated state and the protruding bones are all evidence you can be sure that [Ms Taylor] failed to provide her mother with nourishment."

Ms Walker said Ms Taylor also failed to provide her mother with basic nursing care - there were no clean sheets or clothes, and no regular baths.

"She had skin tears, visible blood, puss, open exposed sores. There were no signs of anti-septic, disinfectant creams, plasters, bandages. These are all open sites for infection on her mother in a hot New Zealand summer, as she lay in her own waste on a plastic sheet."

Ms Walker said Ms Dung also had 14 broken ribs and a broken breast bone that required immediate medical attention, but instead Ms Taylor put her in bed.

She said the pain would have been so severe, Ms Dung would have struggled to move or even breathe.

To illustrate the pain, Ms Walker pointed to the injury suffered by the Hurricanes captain, Dane Coles.

"Rugby fans amongst you may have recently seen Dane Coles, the 108kg hooker and All Black, leaving the field in agony, after what was described as 'an injury to his rib cartilage' - so not even a fractured rib.

"That was during the quarter final win over the Sharks. And that injury - which was not a fracture - and certainly wasn't 14 fractured ribs and a sternum - left that hard man of the All Blacks out of the rest of the match."

Ms Walker said there was no emergency call while Ms Dung was alive, no trips to the hospital or doctors, and rather than take time off work to look after her mother, Ms Taylor increased her hours.

She said the case was one of the worst examples of neglect.

In Ms Taylor's defence, her lawyer Peter Kaye said his client's life was similar to that of the tale of Cinderella and the ugly sisters.

He said Ms Taylor was working long hours on night shift, only to come home to clean the house and care for her mother, snatching sleep when she could.

"This woman is living a life, I suggest, of hell. Nothing short of living hell. What a life for anybody."

He told the jurors that his client had been criticised for a number of things by the Crown, but the jurors had to judge her as a human being.

"There are 12 of you, it's a reasonable person. Not with the benefit of hindsight, not some sort of perfect robot type person but reasonable person."

Mr Kaye's closing address was cut short when a juror fell ill and the court had to retire for the day.

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