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Mother "just gave up on life" says defence

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 3/08/2016

An elderly Auckland woman who starved to death while lying in her own filth wasn't killed, but just gave up on life, her daughter's 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.

But closing the case for Taylor's defence on Wednesday, lawyer Peter Kaye told the jury at the High Court in Auckland Taylor had desperately tried to devote any free hours she had outside of 12-hour work days to caring for her mother.

There was no way she could afford professional care while paying off debts and was left in a nightmarish situation of spending days on end cleaning the messes of a mother with who she had fallen.

"This woman is living a life, I suggest, of hell. Nothing short of living hell," he said.

Mr Kaye reminded the jurors of Taylor's outburst on the stand, during which she cried and yelled Ms Dung had refused food and water in her last days.

"I never denied her anything ... This is a woman who refused to take anything. And I'm getting blamed for that," he quoted Taylor saying.

"Ena just gave up on life. It wasn't suicide. She just gave up on life," he said.

Earlier, prosecutor Natalie Walker pored over the horrific details of the state in which Ms Dung was found after her death as she summarised the Crown case.

The elderly woman was skeletal and 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.

Ms Walker described the intense smell of urine and "meat gone off" reported by police on the scene and discussed how bugs on the body suggested Ms Dung may not have moved for more than a week.

She said the three other people at the house had only later called an ambulance to cover themselves.

"That call was for appearances only. Ms Dung was already dead and all three defendants knew that," Ms Walker said.

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.

The trial continues.

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