A Hokitika woman who desperately tried to save her fatally injured grandson believes his father took good care of him.
Jill Sinclair gave evidence on Tuesday at the trial of her son, David Grant Sinclair, who is charged with murdering his 10-month-old son, CJ Bodhi White, at Hokitika on July 9, 2019.
The Crown says Sinclair inflicted the baby’s fatal injuries, but he alleges they were sustained from a fall down the stairs.
A jury trial began on Monday in the High Court at Greymouth before Justice Rebecca Edwards. It is set down for two weeks and 27 witnesses – plus Sinclair himself – are due to give evidence.
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Jill Sinclair said her son was a good father to CJ and his older son, who was 11 at the time of CJ’s death.
David Sinclair was given full custody of his oldest son when he was 2 and of CJ six weeks before the infant’s death.
She said she visited them most days and CJ was a good-natured baby who usually ate and slept well.
“He was lovely. I loved him, he was gorgeous,” she said.
CJ had been grizzly in the days before his death. He was teething and not sleeping well.
About two weeks before he died, she noticed he was not putting as much weight on one foot as the other when he was in his walker.
She rang her son at 4.20am on July 9, 2019, after he sent her a message asking her to call him.
“He was really upset. Super, super, super panicky and said ‘CJ has fallen out of bed. Mum I need you’,” she said.
She got to her son’s house within 10 minutes and found CJ on the bed.
“His eyes were closed, and he was just taking little short gasping breaths.”
She rang 111 and followed the operator’s instructions to do CPR until a first responder nurse arrived.
Her son was a “mess” and she sent him into the lounge, so she could hear the 111 operator.
She noticed three bruises on CJ’s forehead and an old bruise on his shoulder she had not seen when she visited the day before.
The court was played the frantic 111 call.
Sinclair said her told her he had taken CJ into his bed because he was teething, and he had fallen asleep while watching Netflix. He woke up when CJ fell out of the bed.
He told her he was sorry and said: “If only I hadn’t fallen asleep.”
CJ was flown to Christchurch Hospital but his injuries were deemed unsurvivable. His life support was switched off, and he was declared dead later that day.
Under cross-examination by defence lawyer Andrew McKenzie, Sinclair said her son had attended parenting courses, and she had never seen him angry or hit his sons.
She would have taken the boys away and alerted authorities if she had any concerns about their welfare.
“[David] was a good parent. He was not always perfect. We got him to pull himself up for things.”
They had family meetings “to talk about things”, such as when she heard her son had left CJ and his 11-year-old brother alone in the house.
Crown prosecutor William Taffs earlier told the jury that CJ had injuries inflicted earlier by his father, including a fractured bone in his foot and bruising to his groin and scrotum.
When he died, CJ had 30 bruises across his body, significant brain injuries, skull fractures, soft swelling to his skull, bleeding to both retinas, and swelling, cuts, bleeding and clots on his brain.
They were consistent with his father hitting his head against a hard object or hitting his head with a hard object, Taffs said.
Defence lawyer Andrew McKenzie said CJ had fallen down the stairs.
“[Sinclair] is not guilty of the crime of murder,” McKenzie said.