Taranaki mother's agonisingly long struggle to clear her name for killing child

Nearly 30 years ago Taranaki woman Terri Friesen confessed to killing her own child - a crime she now says she didn't commit, but lied about under pressure from police.

"It was a make or break situation, the hardest thing was knowing that what I'm about to say was a lie, that my baby and God... that they would know that this is going to be a hideous lie to come out my mouth," she told Newshub Nation.

Her former partner, Brownie Walter Broughton, has since come forward and confessed to being the real killer, but a charge of manslaughter remains on Ms Friesen's record.

She said the conviction has kept her from meaningful employment and affected nearly every aspect of her life.  

"There's no words for that, it's the worst. It's the nightmare that you're living every day."

According to Ms Friesen, one night in March 1989, her baby Chantelle wouldn't stop crying. She passed the baby to her partner at the time, Brownie Walter Broughton, and went to sleep.

When Ms Friesen woke, Chantelle was dead. The pathologist later found she died from non-accidental injuries from being shaken.

Chantelle suffered from a brain injury and cracked ribs - an injury her mother says she knew nothing about.

When interrogated by police, Ms Friesen claims she was told that her elder daughter would be taken away if she didn't confess. She also claims she was told a judge and jury would be more likely to let her off than if her partner confessed.  

"[Police] said if Brownie confesses he's going to die you know, he's going to die in prison - but the jury and the judge, everybody is sympathetic towards women so you will probably get let off."

At the trial in November 1989, Ms Friesen plead not guilty to manslaughter using a defence of 'infanticide', which is available to women who can prove their minds were temporarily 'disturbed'.

Baby Chantelle's gravestone.
Baby Chantelle's gravestone. Photo credit: Newshub Nation.

The Crown case against her included that she hadn't visited Chantelle as a premature baby in hospital as often as was expected and that neighbours reported hearing Ms Friesen swear at Chantelle the night she died - which she admits did happen.

Ms Friesen was found guilty of manslaughter; having already spent six weeks remand, she was released on supervised detention.

Then in 2001, Broughton went to police saying he had "found God" and confessed to killing Chantelle. A detective took a statement from him but decided not to re-open the case.

Ten years later he again confessed to police and was finally convicted.

He did not want to appear on camera but told Newshub Nation that he recalls asking at the time if Ms Friesen would have her conviction wiped - and he says that's the reason why he did it.

Ms Friesen thought when he was convicted and sentenced for Chantelle's manslaughter that her conviction would be wiped automatically, but it wasn't.

Canterbury law student Kelly Phillips saw Ms Friesen's story on a documentary series called I am Innocent and reached out to her.

The two have struck up a friendship and now Ms Phillips has helped to put Ms Friesen in touch with a legal team, including private investigator Tim McKinnel, who helped on Teina Pora's case.

Ms Friesen is now waiting to have her appeal against conviction heard in the Court of Appeal.

Watch the video for the full story.

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