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Surprise Guilty Pleas As Toddler Death Trial Opens

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Wellington, Oct 20 NZPA - One of the five people charged over the death of Rotorua toddler Nia Glassie today pleaded guilty to assaulting her.

Another accused admitted assaulting two different children, to the surprise of his lawyer.

Three-year-old Nia died at Auckland's Starship Hospital on August 3 last year. She had been in a coma since being admitted to Rotorua Hospital on July 21.

On the opening day of the trial in a packed High Court at Rotorua today, Oriwa Terrina Kemp, 18, pleaded guilty to three charges of assaulting Nia two other children and Wiremu Curtis, 18, to two charges of assaulting two children, not Nia.

Curtis's lawyer Craig Horsley seemed taken aback by the pleas, and asked for a brief adjournment to discuss it with his cleint.

The guilty pleas "were not consistent with instructions" he told Justice Judith Potter.

After he consulted Curtis, the pleas stood.

Kemp admitted assaulting Nia and two other children by throwing shoes at them.

The incidents happened between the May 21 and July 20 2007.

Curtis pleaded guilty to assaulting two children -- not Nia -- by performing wrestling moves on them.

For legal reasons, the children can not be named.

Kemp is also charged with manslaughter and cruelty to Nia.

Curtis -- former partner of Nia's mother -- is also charged with murder and cruelty.

Nia Glassie's mother Lisa Kuka, 34, is charged with manslaughter and Curtis' brother Michael William Curtis, 21 with murder, assault and cruelty.

Michael Paul Pearson, 19, is charged with manslaughter, cruelty and assault.

It took 40 minutes to select the jury of four women and eight men this morning. The trial is set down for four weeks, with the Crown indicating it will call 55 witnesses, including 20 police.

Glassie was allegedly hung from a clothesline until she fell off, and put in a clother drier, the court was told.

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