Warning signs ignored before baby girl’s death
A woman claims the last time saw her baby daughter alive she was laughing happily in her red walker, as she was left in the care of her mother's drug-addicted boyfriend at his NSW home.
When the mother returned to the South Grafton townhouse less than an hour later on December 4, 2015, the seven-month-old was frothing at the nose, unresponsive and had gone "all floppy".
She would later tell police she knew the infant was "already gone".
Five years later, mystery still surrounds what caused the death of the little girl - known as AH - as a coronial inquest revealed several reports concerning her welfare were made to what was then Family and Community Services in the weeks before she died.
A post-mortem in Newcastle would uncover faint bruising on the child's forehead, brain haemorrhages and haematomas and number of scrapes and bruises on her body.
On Monday, counsel assisting the coroner Stephen Kelly said the inquest would consider how the girl suffered such significant internal injuries, and whether they were a result of an assault by her mother's boyfriend, who can't be named.
The inquest heard both the mother and her then partner, who was not the girl's father, were regular drug users and known to have "volatile" fights with each other.
AH and her older brother were effectively "homeless" at the time, with their mother staying with friends and family and resorting to sleeping in her car.
A month before the girl's death, her older brother was labelled as being at "significant risk of harm" after a report was made to FACS detailing him being covered in red "bite marks".
Despite several further reports of his mother's escalating drug use and homelessness that November, and police twice being called to the home the family was staying at, authorities did not step in.
Mr Kelly said on December 3, 2015, the mother had a fight with her partner, who was suspicious she was being unfaithful to him, and he decided to kick her and the two children out of his home.
However, he "felt sorry" for them and invited the trio back to his unit that same night, where he smoked a "few cones" of cannabis and took ice.
The next day the mother left just before 12pm to pick up cannabis at a house nearby, leaving the child with her partner after he offered to take care of the girl.
She said when she left the baby was happy and sitting in her red walker downstairs.
Her ex-boyfriend has told police two different versions of events while the mother was away, both of which do not include the walker, but the common thread was he fed the girl a bottle of formula and lay her to sleep on the lounge while he cleaned the house.
Mr Kelly said the inquest would consider whether the girl was injured in the walker, and whether the man was trying to "distance himself" by not mentioning it to police.
The mother arrived home, went to cut up some marijuana in the bathroom and then found her daughter unresponsive in the lounge room.
She screamed out to her boyfriend who performed CPR on the baby with the help of a neighbour before paramedics arrived.
NSW Ambulance paramedic George Wheatley said he arrived on scene at about 12.55pm and saw the baby was turning blue and was not breathing: "we knew straight away the baby was in cardiac arrest".
The girl was declared dead at Grafton Base Hospital about 2.18pm.
The inquest continues.
Originally published as Warning signs ignored before baby girl's death