The five year old boy was drowned in the Murray River in Moama, in March 2017.
The five year old boy was drowned in the Murray River in Moama, in March 2017.

Killer mum’s chilling threat to hurt kids

A New South Wales mother who drowned her five-year-old son and told his older brother to "put your head in" the river had previously threatened to drive them into a tree, a court has heard.

The 28-year-old Deniliquin woman, who can't be named for legal reasons, is on trial for the murder of her youngest child and the attempted murder of her eight-year-old son, in the Murray River at Moama on March 2, 2017.

In Wagga Wagga court this morning, the woman sat in the dock for the second consecutive day after yesterday pleading not guilty to both charges by way of mental illness.

Justice Richard Button this morning read out part of a statement made by the accused's mother Robyn Connor soon after the tragedy.

The judge-alone trial heard that the woman had threatened "to drive with her and the boys into a tree" in 2015. Ms Cooper reported the incident, which never eventuated, to police at the time.

The NSW Supreme Court yesterday heard that the woman was on supervised parole after having been released from prison, on aggravated break and enter and drug offences, one month prior to the incident.

In his opening address, Crown Prosecutor Max Pincott said on the morning of the killing, the woman appeared angry and had called her mother from the Victorian town of Goornong and told her: "You won't see us anymore".

A few hours later, the accused took her then-five and eight year old sons to the riverbank and forced them underwater, the court heard.

A witness who heard screams ran to the river and saw the older boy being viciously attacked by a dog. He carried him away and the boy said words to the effect of: "I think I'm the only survivor", the judge-alone trial was told. Another man saw the woman floating on her back in the river soon after.

The mother charged with murder and attempted murder pictured with her two sons, aged 8 and 5, before she allegedly tried to kill one and drowned the youngest.
The mother charged with murder and attempted murder pictured with her two sons, aged 8 and 5, before she allegedly tried to kill one and drowned the youngest.

The child was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries and spent the next three days on a ventilator because he developed severe pneumonia from the attempted drowning. The court heard he told police: "Mum told me to put my head in and she dunked me in there and I was starting to suffocate as she was hopping on me and then I got out and my mum dunked my brother and the dog started biting me".

His five-year-old brother's lifeless body was found in the river two days later following an extensive search by authorities.

On the night of the killing, local resort owner Michael Falzon saw the woman walking into his work premises soaking wet, bleeding and crying, about 9pm.

Mr Pincott said the witness observed that the woman's pants were ripped below her knee and so asked if she was alright.

"She answered: 'I drowned my babies'," Mr Pincott said.

"When asked what she meant, she replied: 'I had to drown my babies'."

‘Buddy’.
‘Buddy’.

Mr Falzon then took the woman to the police station upon her request.

"He observed on the way to the police station the accused was crying and saying 'my babies my babies'," Mr Pincott told the judge.

The court heard that the woman told police: "I killed my kids … "I didn't want to do it. I am such a motherfu**er".

Mr Pincott said that when police asked where her kids were, she became upset and screamed: "I fu**ing drowned them". The court heard she then referenced a former partner she hadn't had contact with since 2016.

"F**k that c**t needs to be shot," she said to officers, the court heard.

Victorian police divers search the Murray River in Moama for the five-year-old boy on Friday, March 3, 2017. Picture: Hamish Blair.
Victorian police divers search the Murray River in Moama for the five-year-old boy on Friday, March 3, 2017. Picture: Hamish Blair.

Victorian police divers search the Murray River for a missing boy on Friday, March 3, 2017, in Moama, New South Wales, Australia. Picture: Hamish Blair
Victorian police divers search the Murray River for a missing boy on Friday, March 3, 2017, in Moama, New South Wales, Australia. Picture: Hamish Blair

 

Emergency services on the banks of the Murray River at Moama after a five-year-old boy was drowned, in March 2017.
Emergency services on the banks of the Murray River at Moama after a five-year-old boy was drowned, in March 2017.

In his opening address, defence barrister Eric Wilson SC said his client believed she was saving her children by killing them.

"She was keeping them safe your honour," he said.

The court heard she was delusional and believed she was "going to be raped, tortured … and had to prevent her children from witnessing that … or they would be killed themselves".

"She was suffering from a seriously disturbed mental state," Mr Wilson said.

"She thought she was saving them from being killed (in a worse way).

"She believes that she actually kept them safe."

Justice Richard Button said it was "thoroughly bizarre to say that to save one's children they must kill them".

Crown witness Dr Jonathon Adams, a forensic psychiatrist who assessed the accused murderer, told the court she appeared to have a borderline personality disorder and was likely suffering delusional beliefs at the time of the alleged offence.

The accused with her five-year-old son she allegedly drowned in the Murray River.
The accused with her five-year-old son she allegedly drowned in the Murray River.

"I think she has borderline personality disorder, a longstanding substance abuse disorder and a likely major depressive disorder," Dr Adams said.

"It appeared to me her mental state was deteriorating in the four weeks prior to the alleged offence."

Moama is located in NSW, just above the Victorian border.
Moama is located in NSW, just above the Victorian border.

The court heard that the woman had a history of drug abuse but that toxicology reports showed she didn't have any traces of illicit substances in her system at the time of her arrest.

Dr Adams said his patient had told him she used the drug ice once - to celebrate her birthday - in the four weeks between her release from jail and drowning her children.

She had also not been taking her prescribed antipsychotic medication since being released from prison in February, the judge was told. In the days leading up to the alleged murder and attempted murder, the woman was seen screaming to herself: "You stupid sl**", "stupid b**ch" and "I'm going to kill him". She was also caught shoplifting on two occasions during that time. The woman's mother, who was caring for the boys, had taken an apprehended violence order (AVO) out on her daughter which banned her from coming near within 24 hours of consuming illicit drugs or alcohol.

Tributes poured in for the young boy in the days following his death. Picture: David Crosling.
Tributes poured in for the young boy in the days following his death. Picture: David Crosling.
The woman accused of drowning her five-year-old son in the Murray River is taken back into the police van after appearing in court via videolink from Echuca Regional Health in 2017. Picture: Ivy Wise/ Riverine Herald.
The woman accused of drowning her five-year-old son in the Murray River is taken back into the police van after appearing in court via videolink from Echuca Regional Health in 2017. Picture: Ivy Wise/ Riverine Herald.
Flowers were placed on the banks of the Murray River in Moama after the boy’s body was found. Picture: David Crosling
Flowers were placed on the banks of the Murray River in Moama after the boy’s body was found. Picture: David Crosling

The court heard the woman was subjected to physical, sexual and emotional abuse as a child and as an adult and that she had a family history of schizophrenia.

Dr Adams said she had been "tormented" by voices in her head since the age of seven. In a report, he noted she had been self-harming since she was nine, first overdosed at age 13 and attempted suicide dozens of times. He said years of chronic substance abuse had worsened her condition and that she had most recently tried to starve herself behind bars.

The trial continues.

 

megan.palin@news.com.au | @Megan_Palin