2 Sep 2019

Ariah Roberts murder trial: Mother accused of lying

7:40 pm on 2 September 2019

The mother of a Mangawhai toddler at the centre of a murder trial has been accused of lying on the stand.

Aaron James Archer is accused of murdering a toddler at Mangawhai in Northland on 22 August 2018.

Aaron Archer Photo: RNZ/Anneke Smith

Ariah Dawn Roberts died while in the care of her mother's former boyfriend Aaron Archer in her home on 22 August 2018.

Mr Archer is now on trial in the High Court at Auckland after pleading not guilty to murdering the two-year-old.

Ariah's cause of death was a blunt force head injury but a post mortem also identified more than 20 bruises on her head.

The Crown has claimed Mr Archer assaulted the girl while the defence maintains he was swinging the girl around when she hit her head.

Last week Ariah's mother, who has permanent name suppression, told the court she didn't notice any bruising around the girl's head when she washed the toddler's hair the night before she died.

But her evidence was contradicted by Ariah's maternal grandmother who on Friday said the toddler's head was covered in bruises several days prior to her death; saying she was sufficiently concerned about the marks to raise them with her daughter.

When recalled by the court today, Ariah's mother confirmed her mother had spoken to her about bruising around the toddler's head but said the marks were from regular knocks and bumps.

"I said they're from banging her head on the cot ... I knew where they were from so they weren't a surprise to me but I did think they were becoming more regular so I was going to take her to a doctor to be referred to a specialist."

Mr Archer's defence lawyer Ron Mansfield asked her why she didn't tell the police some of Ariah's bruises predated her death.

"I just hadn't seen any on that specific day. It doesn't mean she didn't have bruises before that I just didn't notice any that stuck out for me.

"I knew where the bruises on the head around the crown came from. I had an explanation for them so they weren't abnormal or stuck out to me."

Crown prosecutor Brian Dickey asked Ariah's grandmother why she'd never told police about seeing Ariah's head covered in bruises.

The woman said she raised it on several occasions, including when two officers visited the family home the day after Ariah died.

Mr Dickey asked: "So you think you told those officers?"

The grandmother relied: "Yup."

Mr Dickey then asked: "And they just ignored you or what?"

The grandmother replied: "No. I asked them about the multiple injuries on her head and whether they knew which one might have killed her."

Today the Crown called Detective Kim Davison, the family's police liaison, who denied being told this information.

"That would be incredibly significant in a homicide investigation. If anything like that had been mentioned it would have been documented in my notebook and I would have carried on to take a statement from her about what she had seen then and there."

The jury has heard Ariah's mother and grandmother has several phone calls over the weekend after the grandmother gave evidence on Friday.

Mr Dickey accused Ariah's mother of changing her story so her evidence would match her mother's.

"Why would I make this up? This is my daughter's life and I want the person to get a fair trial. Why would I do that?"

She denied trying to protect Mr Archer, telling the court: "I've moved on and have a new life; trying the best I can."

The trial before Justice Whata and a jury continues.