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- Agonising abuse of tiny Tanilla: NSW court
- Contributed by: Moses ( 16 articles in 2013 )
Deceased: Two year old Tanilla Warrick-Deaves
She was forced to run countless laps. Whipped with an extension cord. Made to stand for hours at a time.
And her mother failed to put a stop to the abuse.
The last two months of two-year-old Tanilla Warrick-Deaves's life are outlined in an agreed statement of facts tendered in the NSW Supreme Court on Tuesday, where her mother, Donna Deaves, pleaded guilty to her daughter's manslaughter.
The little girl was left unconscious in a pram in her NSW Central Coast home for nearly two days after she was allegedly badly beaten in the shower by a man who cannot be named for legal reasons and who is due to stand trial for murder later this year.
According to the facts, Tanilla - described by grieving relatives as a "happy-go-lucky" little girl - ultimately died from blunt force head injuries on August 27, 2011 after Deaves finally called triple zero.
But the little girl had allegedly suffered agonising and severe physical abuse in the months before.
The man allegedly beat her up on several occasions, made the toddler stand unsupported for hours on end as punishment for soiling herself and constantly forced her to run laps of the lounge room, despite her suffering from bowed legs.
He whipped her with items including his belt, an extension cord, thongs, a broom and a hairbrush.
Tanilla was "often dressed in a full body suit that covered her arms and legs to hide the bruises that covered her body", the documents said.
About a week before her death, the man allegedly told a friend, "I've hit her with an extension cord, a strap, a jug cord, a wooden spoon and she doesn't learn. Look I'll make her scream...", before he threatened Tanilla with his belt.
On August 25, he allegedly whipped Tanilla with a cord as she ran laps around the lounge room in the presence of Deaves before he put her under a cold shower.
He then banged her head against the shower glass until her mouth was bloody as the toddler screamed "no, no, no", the documents said.
Deaves told police she tried to intervene but the man slapped Deaves across the face before he held Tanilla upside down over the toilet bowl and threatened to put her head in the water.
He then allegedly kicked the little girl across the hall, causing her to hit her head against some cupboards.
After placing the unconscious child in the pram, Deaves said she came to the view that the little girl was brain damaged and was not going to wake up.
When asked by police why she did nothing, Deaves said, "It was a bit late", adding she thought Tanilla would be better off dead than to have lived as a vegetable.
But the doctor who performed a post-mortem examination said Tanilla "may well have survived if she had received prompt medical treatment".
Deaves has pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of criminal negligence.
She will face a sentence hearing in September.
Two-year-old Tanilla Warrick-Deaves was found suffering several injuries in the early morning of August 27, 2011, at a house in Stonehaven Avenue, Watanobbi, and died in Wyong Hospital soon after.
"It wasn’t just the last two weeks of her life ... she had 33 reports on her and she was only two-and-a-half. Alarm bells, hello?"
In the NSW Supreme Court on Tuesday her mother, Donna Deaves, 29, pleaded not guilty to murder, but guilty to manslaughter.
Wearing a brown jumper and a collared shirt, Deaves stood and entered her plea in a clear voice.
Crown prosecutor, Terry Thorpe, accepted Deaves' plea on the basis of "criminal negligence in that she did not get medical assistance for the deceased".
Soon after Tanilla died, police said they wanted to speak to anyone who may have known the toddler was being abused before her death, after a post-mortem examination showed "she did not die of natural causes".
Hitting out: Tanilla's stepmother Brooke Bowen
Outside court, Tanilla's stepmother Brooke Bowen broke down.
Ms Bowen said the family made repeated calls to the the Department of Family and Community Services (FaCS), then known as the Department of Community Services, about concerns for the toddler's welfare.
"It wasn't just the last two weeks of her life she was being reported. She had 33 reports on her and she was only two-and-a-half. Alarm bells, hello?
"They let Tanilla down. A lot of people let Tanilla down.
"Let's just hope after this is all over something can change in the system. It's not going to bring Tanilla back, it's not going to bring any other children back, but let's hope this is an example to get them up on their toes."
In a statement, a FaCS spokesman said the department was "deeply saddened by the tragic case of this little girl".
But there would be no further comment until Deaves' court case, and related cases, were finalised, the spokesman said.
Deaves was first charged with being an accessory to murder but after continuing investigations, police upgraded the charge to manslaughter, then murder.
A co-accused, who is awaiting trial, is charged with the girl's murder.
Ms Bowen described Tanilla as a "beautiful little girl".
"We never had a problem with her. She was happy, she loved everybody. She was a happy-go-lucky little girl."
She said Tanilla's father, Adrian Warrick, was not coping well.
"He's an emotional wreck. He can’t face Donna at the moment.
"He's getting better and as long as he's in the right frame of mind ... to get well for himself ... so we can carry on and get justice for Tanilla because that’s what it’s all about."
Deaves will face a sentence hearing in September.
The girl's family has given permission to identify her.