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Cops suspicious about missing Vic toddler

AAP logoAAP 21/10/2016 Jacqueline Le

Police suspected someone wasn't telling them the truth about a missing Victorian toddler before they discovered her body hidden in the roof of the family home.

John Clifford Torney, 32, is standing trial in Mildura accused of beating to death his then-girlfriend's two-year-old daughter, Nikki Francis-Coslovich, in 2015.

Her body was found in the roof cavity of her home by police hours after she was reported missing by her mother, Peta-Ann Francis, on August 25, 2015.

A policeman who went to the family home to help in the initial search said police were concerned they had not been told the truth about the toddler's disappearance.

Detective Senior Constable Liam Tinkler said officers at the scene discussed questioning the little girl's siblings because they were concerned the adults were lying.

"The kids had no reason to lie," he told the Victorian Supreme Court sitting in Mildura on Friday.

At that stage, police were taking a missing person's report from Ms Francis and searching the surrounding area.

Torney was three houses away at his mother's home in the same street.

The prosecution alleges Torney beat his girlfriend's daughter to death and hid her body in the roof.

Torney has denied murdering the toddler, and alleges Ms Francis killed her and asked him to hide the body and go along with the missing person's report.

Another police officer said Ms Francis did not appear to understand her daughter had been found dead.

"I remember watching her face for a reaction but it didn't seem to register with her," said Detective Senior Constable Donica Cook.

"I don't think she understood what it meant, that she was unable to be revived. It was like she thought she (Nikki) was okay, she wanted to know if she was okay."

Ms Francis was arrested and taken to the police station, where she made a statement to police.

Concerned that the mother didn't understand what had happened to her daughter, Det Sen Const Cook and a sergeant told Ms Francis that Nikki was dead.

"She was devastated," said Det Sen Const Cook.

"She collapsed into the wall, she was crying and asking how this happened, and where was she."

Torney was not told of the discovery of Nikki's body until after he was taken to the police station to make a statement about her disappearance.

"He began sobbing," said Det Sen Const Tinkler.

Both Torney and Ms Francis co-operated with police, the court was told.

The trial will resume on Monday.

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