Man accused of drowning daughter 'wanted true humility'

6:40 pm on 9 March 2020

A Bay of Plenty man accused of drowning his two-year old daughter in July 2018 intended to take her life and possibly his own, the Crown says.

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The High Court in Hamilton. Photo: RNZ / Edward Gay

Tewi Daniel Savage, 34, is on trial in the High Court in Hamilton charged with murder. His daughter Arnica Savage's body was found in the Rangitaiki River.

The Crown said he was angry after the breakdown of his relationship with Arnica's mother, who was also the mother of four of his other children.

Savage, his partner and their whānau met to discuss arrangements for the children. The Crown said he went for a walk with his daughter in her pram so he could calm down.

After he had not returned, he was found by family members crying and saying he had f*** up and had drowned his daughter.

He was found naked in blackberry bushes.

Crown Prosecutor Richard Jenson said that when Savage was later interviewed by police, he could not remember what had actually happened, but claimed he had not held her under or drowned her.

Jenson told the jury of eight women and four men that the accused said he had taken his clothes off because he was angry and had wanted true humility.

The Crown said the accused then said he had blacked out and could not remember if he had thrown her in or carried her into the water.

Jenson told the jury that causing the child to drown was a failure to provide the necessaries of life and was a departure from the standard of care to be expected.

He said it was a legally blameworthy act - that causing a death was a culpable homicide.

Jenson said the case would be established principally by the evidence that Savage was in sole charge of Arnica and that he took her into the water and ultimately caused her to asphyxiate in the water.

He said the defendant was consumed by anger, jealously and despair and when he entered the water he intended to kill himself.

It was crucial for the jury to determine whether Savage intended to cause the child's death, Jenson said.

He asked what other intent there could be in taking a two-year-old into a freezing river and holding them under or letting them float away.

Jenson said that at the very least, anyone must know that taking those actions was likely to cause them to be unable to breathe and to lose consciousness, suffering an injury from which they would likely die.

Defence lawyer Shane Tait made a brief opening statement to the court, saying his client did not accept responsibility for his daughter getting into the river or her drowning.

Tait said the defendant also did not hold her under the water or allow her to float away.

He said Savage was a little bit sick in the head at the time and was not thinking like a responsible person. Tait said his defence would be that Savage was insane at the time.

Police search and rescue officer John Fredrickson told the court the river level was lowered by Trust Power to aid the search.

He described spotting the body snagged over a tree on the other side of the river from where he was.

The Crown will call 27 witnesses in the trial, which is expected to last up to two weeks.