Murder accused Adrian Clancy denies he caused toddler’s fatal injuries

A Tauranga man accused of murdering a 17-month-old girl has vehemently denied he violently assaulted her while she was in his sole care.

The defence lawyer for Adrian Colin Clancy, 39, argued at his trial there was no Crown evidence that linked Clancy to the alleged assault of the toddler.

Clancy has pleaded not guilty to murdering Sadie-Leigh Gardner in Tauranga on March 27, 2019. A trial by jury began in the High Court at Rotorua yesterday.

Gardner was taken to Tauranga Hospital with serious head injuries after the alleged assault. She was transferred to Auckland’s Starship hospital, where she died two days later.

Crown prosecutor Richard Jenson told the court her injuries were not survivable.

During his opening address, Jenson told the jury the trial would centre around Clancy’s actions on March 27, 2019, when Sadie-Leigh was temporarily left his sole care.

Jenson said it was the Crown’s case the toddler had a cold and was a bit grizzly, and Clancy had placed her into her cot to sleep before going back to watching and gambling on sports, he said.

The Crown alleged Clancy violently assaulted Sadie-Leigh.

Jenson said the jury would hear evidence her injuries were consistent with the striking of her head, slamming or being thrown against a hard surface.

Jenson alleged that after Clancy realised Sadie-Leigh was unconscious and not breathing, he sought help from a woman at the neighbouring flat, who called 111.

He said the neighbour performed CPR on the unresponsive toddler until ambulance staff arrived to take over and Sadie-Leigh was taken to Tauranga Hospital.

Jenson said a CT scan revealed a significant bilateral brain bleed and a fracture to the right side of her skull just below the right ear.

Sadie-Leigh was transferred to Starship and further tests confirmed she also had significant retinal haemorrhages to both eyes and was unable to see, he said.

The toddler died in Starship about 11am on March 29.

As well as the fractured skull, the post-mortem also revealed brain swelling and bleeding and a fracture to Sadie-Leigh’s right shoulder, the court was told.

Jenson said the jury would later hear evidence from several medical experts about the injuries, including from the pathologist who determined her death was caused by blunt force trauma.

Despite Clancy’s denial, the Crown alleged he was responsible for causing the injuries suffered by Sadie-Leigh, which caused ultimately her death, Jensen said.

Jenson said it was the Crown’s case that Clancy either had murderous intent or meant to cause bodily injury knowing his actions were likely to cause serious harm to her and “chose to dice with Sadie-Leigh’s life” anyway.

He alleged Clancy had become frustrated or angry and vented his emotions violently on the toddler.

Clancy’s lawyer Karen Tustin made a brief opening defence statement to the jury.

She told the jury Clancy “vehemently denied” he was responsible for Sadie-Leigh’s injuries and he had done so from the outset when interviewed by the police.

Tustin said the jury needed to focus on what caused the injuries, when the injuries were caused and who, if anyone, could be identified as the person who caused them.

She submitted that the Crown’s civilian witnesses would be unhelpful to its case and the Crown’s medical experts could only give their medical opinions on the toddler’s injuries.

Tustin also said that of high importance in the jury’s deliberations was that no one saw or heard Clancy harming Sadie-Leigh, or anyone else doing so at the critical time.

She said there was no dispute Clancy had taken sole charge of Sadie-Leigh during that day nor that he urgently sought help from a woman at a neighbouring property.

Tustin reminded the jury the Crown must prove the charge beyond reasonable doubt and Clancy must be presumed innocent until the jury was satisfied of his guilt.

“I am asking you to look at the evidence, which gives us a lot of pieces of the puzzle but the Crown has not presented any evidence that discharged its burden of proof.”

Tustin said it was vital that the jury did not speculate on what might have happened and must put aside any feelings of prejudice to only determine their verdicts on proven facts.

The trial, presided over by Justice Christian Whata, is expected to take up to two weeks.

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