5 June 2023

Woman charged with child neglect after police called to home with 'faeces smeared all over the walls'

| Lizzie Waymouth
ACT Magistrate Court.

Police were called to a home on 3 June and allegedly found four children living in a house “filled with black mould, dirt, faeces and nappies”. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

CONTENT WARNING: This story includes graphic details of child neglect.

A woman has been charged with four counts of child neglect and two counts of forcible confinement after police were called to a home where four children were allegedly found living in “what could be described as torture-like conditions”.

According to the statement of facts tendered to the ACT Magistrates Court, police were called to the home of a 39-year-old woman on Saturday evening (3 June) after a report of a disturbance between the accused and her partner. The accused is believed to have parental responsibility for four children, aged 12, 10, seven and five years old.

Police said the children were found in living conditions that “fell well short of the duties, powers and responsibilities that parents ordinarily have”, with two of the children believed to have “been forcibly confined on many occasions and denied basic human needs”.

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When police arrived on Saturday evening, the accused and her partner were believed to have left to attend a party, and the 10-year-old child answered the door through the locked security screen. According to the statement, the child had been charged with looking after their three other siblings, who are autistic.

All external doors to the property were allegedly locked from both sides, with no access to a key for the children to be let out. Police said that the 10-year-old helped them access the property and “immediately on entry … smelt a strong odour of rubbish and faeces”.

According to police, the two youngest children were asleep on a dirty mattress on a concrete floor, wearing nappies with no other clothing and did not have access to a toilet or drinking water. Police also observed that the room had no light fixtures and “was filled with dirty nappies and had faeces smeared all over the walls and windows”.

The statement said the police observed large amounts of black mould, dirt, faeces and nappies throughout the house, rotting food in various places, drug paraphernalia, mice and rats, and large amounts of flies, particularly in one of the children’s bedrooms. The toilets and bathroom sink were allegedly filled with faeces, and “dirty nappies stacked 3ft high” were in the laundry room.

“The smell of the house was overwhelming,” the statement said.

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According to the statement, the 10-year-old child told police that they don’t have a mattress and sleep on the floor and that the children “do not have clean clothes as mum can’t afford it”.

The child allegedly told police that the defendant “often gets angry and throws stuff around”.

Around an hour after police entered the property, it is believed that the accused’s son, who is 19 years old, returned to the property. The man allegedly relocked the room containing the two youngest children, telling police that “they are severely autistic and they get out”.

Police said they had to use a baton to break the padlock so the children were not locked in.

The following day, the children were believed to have been taken into police care. As all external doors were locked, police used force to remove the security door to remove the children safely, the statement said.

According to the statement, later that day, police attended the property again to execute a search warrant, and the accused and her partner were present.

Police said they questioned the accused about the keys and padlock and were told: “She padlocked the [two youngest children’s] doors at night to stop them getting out; otherwise, they would run away”.

“The confinement and the conditions within this room put them at risk of serious injury or death,” police said in the statement.

The defendant was arrested on the evening of 4 June and is on bail until she reappears in court on 30 June.

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