Dying girl’s head looked like ‘a skull wrapped in skin’

By Calvin Palmer

A jury in New South Wales was told today that a dying girl’s head resembled a skull wrapped in skin.

The emaciated body of the seven-year-old girl was found at the family home at Hawks Nest on November 3, 2007.

Her 47-year-old father and 35-year-old mother, who cannot be named for legal reasons, have pleaded not guilty to the charge of starvation murder.

Gastroenterologist Dr Edward O’Loughlin told the NSW Supreme Court that the girl was probably unable to walk or even sit up on the night before her death.

O’Loughlin said it would have been highly likely to an onlooker that the girl was in the process of dying. But he believed she could still have been saved had she been treated even hours before her death.

“In the last days of her life, she would have been incapable of eating or drinking,” O’Loughlin said. “Even hours from death from malnutrition, you could salvage the patient and save them.”

Dennis Stewart, for the mother, asked whether it was possible the girl could have resisted food the day before her death.

“That’s possible, but when you get to that point you should be in a hospital being treated,” O’Loughlin replied.

Earlier the gastroenterologist told the jury he had reviewed the case, including evidence from a post-mortem examination.

He said it was one of the most severe cases he had seen after treating “many hundreds” of malnourished children over 25 years.

‘”I’ve never looked after someone so malnourished,” he said. “I’ve seen pictures in textbooks and of Holocaust victims, but I’ve never treated anyone this malnourished.”

Describing the girl’s state of emaciation, he said it gave her the “appearance of a skull wrapped in skin”.

“There were feces in her hair, which would indicate, to me, a serious state of neglect.

“She was one of the most profoundly malnourished images I have ever seen. She needed to be in hospital in an intensive care unit.”

[Based on a report by The Sydney Morning Herald.]

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