A MILDURA man accused of bashing toddler Nikki Francis-Coslovich to death says it was her mother who killed her, before he helped hide her body in the roof.
John Torney’s barrister Julie Condon yesterday told the Supreme Court Nikki’s mother, Peta-Ann Francis, had spun a web of “big, bad lies”.
Torney, 32, who has pleaded not guilty to one count of murder, is accused of killing Nikki at an Oram Court address in August last year while Ms Francis went shopping and ran errands.
Chief crown prosecutor Gavin Silbert QC told the court, sitting in Mildura, the girl was “battered to death” from repeated blunt force trauma to her chest and stomach.
Mr Silbert said when Ms Francis returned home about 12.30pm the day of Nikki’s death, she and Torney smoked several cones of cannabis, had sex and went to sleep before waking about 2.40pm.
He said it was then Ms Francis noticed Nikki was missing.
Nikki’s body was found in the roof cavity of the house several hours later when police noticed dirty fingerprints on the manhole.
Mr Silbert said medical evidence found Nikki had died between 11am and 2.30pm that day.
“A pathologist will tell you that ... she could have been alive for up to an hour after the bashing before she died,” he said.
Mr Silbert said the prosecution case against Torney was “circumstantial” but the combined effect of the facts would lead to the conclusion that Torney murdered the girl.
He said while the jury may not find Ms Francis a good witness, the prosecution’s timeline of events was backed up by CCTV footage.
The court heard Torney initially denied all involvement in Nikki’s death, but changed his story a few days later to say Ms Francis – Nikki’s mother and his then partner – had killed her and he had agreed to help hide the body.
Ms Francis was arrested on the evening of Nikki’s death, but has not been charged by police.
Defence barrister Julie Condon said Ms Francis had an opportunity within the timeline of events to have killed Nikki, pointing the jury’s attention to her return from the VicRoads office.
“This is really what happened,” she said.
“Peta killed her.”
Torney claims Ms Francis told him she “went too far with Nikki” and she died after she threw Nikki on the bed.
Ms Condon told the jury “logic and reason” would be their gods over the course of the trial.
She said the jurors may have already “silently condemned” Torney for his admissions of hiding the body.
“Well, I ask you at this stage to suspend your judgment on that,” she said.
“Do not let that act define how you see Mr John Torney.”
Ms Condon asked the jury to pay particular attention to Ms Francis’ statements about when she last saw Nikki.
She said while it may seem that a mother killing her daughter ran against the “laws of nature”, that would not be their attitude by the end of the trial.
The jury was yesterday taken to Oram Court to view the house and surroundings.
The murder trial, which is expected to last up to four weeks, continues today before Justice Elizabeth Hollingworth.
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