Mother found not guilty of murdering toddler at Scone in 2000 or 2001

The girl's mother.

The girl's mother.

A WOMAN accused of murdering her young daughter at Scone in 2000 or 2001 has been found not guilty by reason of mental illness.

Justice Robert Allan Hulme provided an answer to a more than 16-year mystery in Newcastle Supreme Court on Friday when he found that the girl, who he said could now be referred to as “Astra”, was dead.

Justice Hulme said he was also satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the girl, who was about 16 months old when she was last seen, died as a result of a “deliberate act” at the hands of her mother. 

The mother leaves Newcastle courthouse on Friday after she was found not guilty of murdering her daughter by reason of mental illness. Picture: Sam Rigney

The mother leaves Newcastle courthouse on Friday after she was found not guilty of murdering her daughter by reason of mental illness. Picture: Sam Rigney

However, both psychiatrists called during the five-week judge-alone trial agreed the mother was labouring under a mental illness, namely schizophrenia, around the time she killed the child and opined that that mental illness affected her ability to understand right and wrong. 

Justice Hulme agreed, finding the woman not guilty by reason of mental illness.

He said a possible motive revealed during the trial was that the mother had incorporated her daughter into her “persecutory delusional beliefs”.

Justice Hulme noted that Dr Stephen Allnutt had opined “altruism” was the most likely motive for killing the child. 

“She did not want her mother to have contact with or custody of the child,” Justice Hulme said of the woman.

“She had a history of persecutory delusional beliefs, about people harming [the girl] and thus she needed to protect [the girl].”

The woman showed no visible emotion when the judgement was delivered.

A cloth covering her face, the woman left Newcastle courthouse without speaking to the waiting media.

The trial had heard that the mother had repeatedly told varying stories about the whereabouts of her daughter.

But the common theme among the tales she told was that the girl is alive, she is safe and she is living with an elderly couple in an informal, non-documented care arrangement. 

Justice Hulme found those stories were deliberate lies. 

He ordered that the forensic mental health network undertake a report to determine if the woman should be detained or if she can be cared for with a mental health treatment plan in the community. 

He adjourned the matter until October and continued the woman’s bail. 

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