A jury has found Maketū father Aaron George Izett guilty of murdering his 2-year-old daughter Nevaeh Ager and two other assault charges.
Izett, 38, has been on trial in the High Court at Rotorua defending a murder charge after Nevaeh Jahkaya Whatukura Ager’s body was found by police on the tidal flats at Little Waihi estuary on March 21 last year.
The jury delivered their unanimous verdicts today after about 10 hours of deliberations.
The jury had to decide whether Izett intended to kill his daughter when he assaulted her
and / or drowned her, or was not guilty by reason of insanity at the time.
Or was it, as theCrown alleged, Izett’s “meth rage” that led to him to kill Nevaeh and assault three other people between March 20 and 21, 2019.
The Crown case was that there was no evidence of Izett suffering from a mental illness at the time nor evidence to support an insanity defence.
Izett accepted he caused the fatal injuries but denied he had murderous intent.
Last week, pathologist Rexson Tse gave evidence that Nevaeh sustained multiple bruises and abrasions to almost all her body caused by a weapon or weapons.
He said there could have been 70 to 80 blows to her body, including at least 10 or possibly up to 20 to the toddler’s head, and a torn ligament in her neck.
The Crown told the jury after Izett assaulted his daughter he placed her naked body face-down in the water on mudflats and placed two large rocks on top of her.
The pathologist said Nevaeh drowned but might have survived if not placed in the water.
Izett has also been found not guilty on a charge of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, but guilty of charges of assault, and injuring with intent to injure.
The wounding charge relates to his alleged assault ofJacob Reid, a neighbour in Maketū, on March 18 last year with a sharp object or blade, leaving a deep cut to his neck.
The assault charge relates to Izett intentionally punching Nevaeh’s great-grandfather, John Sturgess, in the face and arm on March 20, 2019, during a visit.
The injuring with intent charge relates to Izett biting the arm of a police officer during his March 21 arrest,but he claimed no memory of having done so.
Crown prosecutor Kieran Raftery QC earlier told the jury that Izett’s violent assault of his daughter and the multiple injuries inflicted on her were “brutal in the extreme”.
Raftery said Nevaeh would have suffered a “severe reign of terror” from Izett’s sustained assault and the force used “spoke volumes” about his intention to kill her.
Defence lawyer Julie-Anne Kincade QC argued Izett lacked the necessary intent to be found guilty of murder and / or should be found not guilty by reason of insanity.
She said there was evidence from eyewitnesses, medical reports and other signs of Izett suffering a psychosis, given his erratic behaviour and being “out of touch with reality”.
Kincade said Izett’s use of methamphetamine did not explain his strange behaviour and there were clearly other things going on in his mind not linked to drug-taking.
She said the defence submitted Izett was “suffering from a disease of the mind” at the time and not capable of understanding his actions were morally wrong.
Izett reported hearing voices, including a female voice threatening to kill him, and was having hallucinations and grandiose thoughts about his wealth and “being a prophet”.
She also told the jury that the accused had also thought police were trying to poison him.
“When you look at all the evidence there is absolutely no evidence that Mr Izett intended to kill his daughter, but whatever was going on in his mind it was not logical.”
Kincade QC said there was evidence about that by the defence’s medical expert Dr Justin Barry-Walsh, a psychiatrist who interviewed Izett in February and July this year.
“The fact that the doctors did not diagnose schizophrenia, does not mean it is not or was not there at the time.”
Izett will be sentenced on February 3 in the High Court at Tauranga.
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