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Landlady never knew how bad it was: lawyer

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 4/08/2016

The landlady of an elderly Auckland woman who starved to death lying in her own filth was never the pensioner's caregiver and didn't know how bad the situation was, her lawyer says.

Cindy Taylor, 43, is standing trial in Auckland accused of the manslaughter of her mother, Ena Lai Dung, 77, who weighed only 29kg when she died half-naked in her bed in Manurewa on January 16, 2015.

The Crown says Taylor grossly neglected Ms Dung - who she lived with - causing her death by dehydration and malnutrition, and then kept collecting her and an uncle's pensions after their deaths - totalling more than $37,000.

Two other people who lived at the Manurewa home, wife and husband Luana Taylor, 56, and Brian Taylor, 62, - unrelated to Cindy - are also charged with failing to protect a vulnerable adult over Ms Dung's death.

On Thursday Luana Taylor's lawyer, Maria Mortimer, told the court the wheelchair-bound woman's disability kept her from having regular contact with Ms Dung and that they lived separate lives.

"There is no evidence Luana was ever a caregiver. In fact there was a wealth of evidence to the contrary, She needed care herself," she said.

She said the prosecution had never established when Luana Taylor had found out about Ms Dung's condition or how long she took to call an ambulance when she did.

The court earlier heard nearly all the money which Cindy Taylor was taking out of her mother and her uncle's pension accounts after their deaths - over which she faces two additional charges - was being given to Luana Taylor to cover debts.

But Ms Mortimer said claims about money were just a "smokescreen" and there was nothing "shady" about it.

If Luana Taylor was as obsessed with money, as the prosecution had said, she would have had strong motive to keep Ms Dung alive, Ms Mortimer said.

Luana Taylor earlier told police Ms Dung owed her about half a million dollars.

Brian Taylor's lawyer, Louise Freyer, said her client would never have ignored the plight of a suffering woman.

"He believed Cindy Taylor was taking care of the needs of her mother. If there was any neglect, Brian Taylor would not have known about it," she said.

Cindy Taylor had never told her flatmates she was not coping, and Brian Taylor only realised how bad things were when he walked into Ms Dung's room to find her dead, Ms Freyer said.

Ms Dung was found dead covered in bed sores, with 14 rib fractures and chemical burns from lying in her own faeces and urine, only on a plastic sheet on which she had defecated.

Cindy Taylor's lawyers say Ms Dung refused to eat and drink in her last days - her health rapidly failing - and that the accused had done her best to care for her mother around 12-hour work days and under financial stress, comparing her to "Cinderella" and saying it was a "living hell".

Justice Edwin Wylie will summarise the case on Friday morning before the jury retires to make its decision.

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