A young witness in the Nia Glassie murder trial, who gave harrowing evidence of regular cruelty inflicted on the three year old, was warned by the alleged persecutors not to tell anyone what she had seen.
This was revealed today when a lengthy video-taped interview with the child, whose identification is protected by law, was shown in the High Court at Rotorua.
She was questioned by a specialist Child, Youth and Family officer on July 23 last year, the day after Nia was admitted to hospital in a coma.
The footage was played to the jury — reduced from 12 members to 11 after a juror arrived late this morning and was discharged by Justice Judith Potter.
Nia died on August 3 without regaining consciousness.
The witness, who also testified of suffering physical abuse at the hands of the same group, said she was threatened with “a hiding” if she spoke to anybody about what happened in the house when Nia’s mother was at work.
“They hurt people and smashed them,” the girl said.
They were “Big Mikes” who she said was Michael Curtis, “Little Mikes” or Michael Pearson and Wiremu Curtis, whom she told the interviewer were then aged 20, 19 and 17.
Oriwa Kemp, who the witness said was 16, punched Nia in the back of the head and kicked the toddler when she was watching television.
“She says she doesn’t like her,” the child testified.
The Curtis brothers are charged with Nia Glassie’s murder, while Pearson, Kemp and Nia’s mother Lisa Kuka face counts of manslaughter.
Apart from Kuka, the other four are also being tried for wilful mistreatment and assault.
The three men “smashed” Nia every day, the child witness said.
“She was only three,” she said.
“Every time she sits down to watch TV they turn it off and throw her on the floor and drop her on her head,” she said.
“Every time she makes a mistake they just get her and do um, um, they do (pause) body slamming her.”
She told of seeing the Curtis brothers performing wrestling moves with Nia. They would hold her by the throat until she was “breathing hard,” lie her down on a mattress and jump on her face and her stomach. The small victim would cry and would be bleeding from the nose.
Although they saw the blood, the men “don’t care. They keep on smashing her”.
Nia would be kicked to a wall leaving bumps on her head “like balls”, the child told the interviewer.
Michael Curtis would lift the pre-schooler by a leg and an arm until she touched the ceiling and then just let her drop. The witness also saw him punch the three-year-old in the stomach.
“He was the worst wrestling with her.”
All three male accused stood watching and laughing as Nia was spun on the wire clothesline until she fell off and on another occasion put in the clothes dryer which was turned on high.
“She goes round and round. Her head gets hot and she starts to bleed. We ran a bath for her to cool down.”
The men also put the toddler into piles of rubbish and told her there were cockroaches among it, the girl said.
Two days before Nia was taken to hospital by an aunt, after she had lain in bed unable to wake up, the witness said she saw the Curtis brothers kicking her in the head.
“After they did that, Nia went to sleep.”
When Kuka came home late that night, Nia could not tell her mother she was hurt “because she couldn’t wake up”.
The witness, who has been kept in another room in the courthouse, will be cross-examined by defence lawyers tomorrow through closed circuit television.
There will be no afternoon session because of the long weekend and the trial will resume on Tuesday.