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April 2, 2007

I didn't mean to kill my girl, says father

From: New Zealand Herald, New Zealand - Apr 2, 2007

The man convicted of the manslaughter of his 9-year-old daughter after he drove off a 150m slope on Mt Wellington has dismissed as "ludicrous" the notion the act was intentional.

Garth Abbott denied that he wanted to end his life and those of his two young daughters during the crash in August 2005.

Britney, 9, and Shirvaun, 4, were not wearing seatbelts. The older girl was flung from the vehicle into a tree branch, dying instantly. Shirvaun suffered serious injuries.

"For somebody to think that I can injure my kids, I mean, it's ludicrous," Abbott told TVNZ's Sunday programme. "Anyone who knows my family and I knows how close we are. My wife is not only my wife, she's also my best friend. My kids are not only my kids, they're also my best friends.

"I've got a life sentence. I have to live with it every day of my life."

Abbott was sentenced last week in the High Court at Auckland to 4 years in jail.

The Sunday interview, which aired last night, took place when he was free on bail in the two weeks before sentencing.

"Being at home these two weeks, no words can describe it. At the same time, it's hard, because I don't know when I'll see them again."

Abbott and his wife moved to New Zealand from South Africa to provide a better life for their daughters, both profoundly deaf from a genetic disorder that ran in both sides of the family.

They were in the middle of applying for permanent residency when they were told by the Immigration Service that their daughters' conditions would be a "burden".

Not long after, Abbott was told by doctors that Britney, at 9, was too old to have a much-hoped-for cochlear implant.

There were also tensions between him and his wife. He was arguing with her over the phone when the crash occurred. Police had been called out of concern for the children's safety.

Abbott denied the police's version of events, which quoted him as saying "We're all going to die". There was also reference to a 10-second countdown, which police inferred to mean a countdown to death.

Abbott said that was taken out of context. He said it was something someone South African would understand as a 10-second countdown for the police to get off the phone, or he would hang up.

He denied that the pressure of it all had been too much.

He told police at the time that he had swerved to avoid another car, although there were no witnesses to back that up.

Abbott accepted that it was his driving that killed his daughter. He is likely to be deported to South Africa once he finishes his sentence.

"Do they not have a heart? Not for me, I'm an adult. I can deal with it.

"Do they not have a heart for my child, and my wife? Have they not suffered enough?"


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