Mother found guilty of murder in case of starved seven-year-old girl

By Calvin Palmer

The mother of a seven-year-old girl who starved to death has been found guilty of her murder while the father was found guilty of manslaughter.

The jury at the Supreme Court in New South Wales took a week to reach its verdicts.

At the start of the trial the jurors were warned by Crown Prosecutor Peter Barnett SC that some of the photographic evidence would be as horrific as images from the Holocaust.

The 47-year-old man and his 35-year-old wife, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had both pleaded not guilty to murdering the child at their Hawks Nest home on November 3, 2007.

The autistic girl’s weight dropped from 44 pounds to just 19 pounds at the time of her death.

Several doctors with decades of experienced testified that they had never seen such a severe case of malnutrition and emaciation.

One doctor said the girl’s state of emaciation gave her the appearance of a skull wrapped in skin.

An ambulance driver testified that the girl’s body looked mummified.

During the trial, the parents admitted lying to police when they claimed she was happy and well the night before her death, with the jury told she would have been “semi-conscious to comatose” for days.

The child’s father blamed the mother for the death, saying she was solely responsible for the seven-year-old’s care.

The mother told the jury the thought her daughter may die “never entered my head”.

The court had heard how both the mother and father had a long history of prescription drug abuse.

Neither parent showed any emotion as the verdicts were read out to conclude the five-week trial.

The father’s legal counsel, Mark Austin, asked for a six week adjournment to allow time for psychiatric reports to be prepared before the sentencing hearing.

The mother’s lawyer, Dennis Stewart, said he had two such reports ready, and her sentencing hearing was set down for 10:00 a.m. tomorrow.

Justice Robert Allan Hulme told the jurors counseling was available to them, and advised them to take advantage of the service if they felt it would be of benefit.

He also thanked them for their diligence.

The couple’s three other daughters remain in the custody of the Department of Community Services.

[Based on reports by the Melbourne Herald Sun and The Australian.]

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