Gustav Sanft manslaughter trial over daughter's death begins

The Crown says a man who shot and killed his two-year-old daughter pointed a sawn-off shot gun at her to "try and scare her".

Gustav Sanft allegedly shot Amokoura Daniels-Sanft in the head from close range at a south Auckland address in June last year.

The little girl, also known as 'Amo', had been living at the Favona Road home with Sanft, her mother and three siblings.

The family had been preparing to move house, and the court heard Sanft had been holding the sawn-off shotgun on the driveway outside his home.

There were a number of couches outside, and the Crown prosecutor Katie Hogan said his two-year-old daughter began playing up and jumping on the furniture.

"The Crown suggests Sanft became angry with her. We say he pointed the gun at her perhaps with the intent to scare her. He pulled the trigger and the gun fired."

Sanft shot Amokoura from less than a couple of metres away.

"He didn't expect it to fire, but he shot her above the left eye causing her skull to break into pieces," said Ms Hogan.

The Crown says Sanft immediately dropped the firearm and picked up his daughter.

"He was significantly distressed. Three police officers that were driving past were waved down. They arrived to a chaotic and traumatic scene. Sanft was holding Amokoura, and he was walking around with her and wailing."

The court heard Sanft was quick to talk to police, saying: "I pulled the trigger, she was just playing up… I f**ked up, what have I done?"

He also told an ambulance officer he "didn't want their sympathy" because he was "a killer".

The Crown says there is no doubt that this was a terrible tragedy, but a number of failures by Sanft led to the incident.

"He failed to ensure the gun wasn't loaded, he failed to ensure the safety catch was on. He failed by holding the shotgun in close proximity to Amokoura, by pointing at her and by pulling the trigger."

But Sanft's defence lawyer Phil Hamlin says the death of his client's daughter was an accident.

"His knowledge of the gun was that it was useless, didn't work, and as far as he knew not loaded.

"He didn't point the gun at his daughter, he didn't point any end of the gun at her, he didn't in anyway involve his daughter with the gun."

Mr Hamlin told the court his client was holding it to keep it away from the children, and to dispose of it.

"He didn't aim it at anyone, let alone his two-year-old daughter. The question is, what went wrong here?

"His actions and the fact that he was going to dispose of it did show that he did take reasonable care."

The court heard there was no gun safe at the address, and Sanft didn't have a firearms license.

This morning he pleaded guilty to the unlawful possession of a pistol, and is standing trial on one charge of manslaughter.

The Crown is expecting to call 31 witnesses during the trial, which is set down for up to three weeks.