Relatives of the three-year-old boy leaving Cairns court yesterday. PICTURE: STEWART McLEAN
Relatives of the three-year-old boy leaving Cairns court yesterday. PICTURE: STEWART McLEAN

Court told of final hours leading up to daycare death

A TOTAL "systems failure" at a Cairns daycare centre, staff negligence and alleged fraudulent dealings with a computer system have been blamed for why a three-year-old boy was left to die on a minibus, a court has heard.

The traumatic triple-0 telephone call made by Goodstart Early Learning Edmonton centre director Michael Glenn Lewis, 45, after finding the boy's body was read out in the Cairns Magistrates Court where he was granted bail yesterday.

Goodstart Early Learning Edmonton centre director Michael Glenn Lewis, 45, has been granted bail after being charged with manslaughter over the death of a three-year-old boy allegedly left on a bus. Glenn Lewis, 45, leaving the Cairns watch house with his solicitor Derek Perkins. PICTURE: STEWART McLEAN
Goodstart Early Learning Edmonton centre director Michael Glenn Lewis, 45, has been granted bail after being charged with manslaughter over the death of a three-year-old boy allegedly left on a bus. Glenn Lewis, 45, leaving the Cairns watch house with his solicitor Derek Perkins. PICTURE: STEWART McLEAN

Police prosecutor Sen-Sgt Maynard Marcum told the court their case was "strong" and "serious" with police alleging the boy was incorrectly signed in on the centre's computer system more than an hour before he was even collected from home.

He said Bentley Park man Mr Lewis and staff member Dionne Batrice Grills, 34, from Manunda, who are both charged with manslaughter, also allegedly failed to sign the boy in manually when he was collected by the bus about 9.15am.

Goodstart Early Learning employee Dionne Batrice Grills, 34, (centre) from Manunda leaves the Cairns watch house with her lawyer and a supporter after being granted bail. Ms Grills has been charged with manslaughter over the death of a three-year-old boy who was found in a hot van at Edmonton last week. PICTURE: STEWART McLEAN
Goodstart Early Learning employee Dionne Batrice Grills, 34, (centre) from Manunda leaves the Cairns watch house with her lawyer and a supporter after being granted bail. Ms Grills has been charged with manslaughter over the death of a three-year-old boy who was found in a hot van at Edmonton last week. PICTURE: STEWART McLEAN

He was the only child on the bus on that trip after his mother, Muriel Namok, called to let the centre know he had been forgotten for collection earlier that morning.

The court heard they had driven about 5km to the centre and left him on board, despite being the only passenger.

The court heard the toddler was seated just two rows behind the driver.

"There were specific procedures in place to ensure that this terrible tragedy would not occur," he said.

Sen-Sgt Marcum said Mr Lewis allegedly then drove the bus to a meeting at Bayview Heights for several hours, before finding the boy's body in a seat two rows behind the driver when departing for the afternoon trip from outside Hambledon State School.

He read out what Mr Lewis said on the call to emergency services at 3.16pm last Tuesday.

"Oh my god, this kid is dead," he read from the transcript. "Oh my god I'm the director of the childcare centre. The child was left on the bus all day. I've just opened up the bus and he's here dead.

"I'm so sorry buddy.

"Oh my god I'm going to jail, this is my fault. Oh my god he's been in here the whole day. Oh my god my whole life is over."

Police officers attend Hambledon State School at Edmonton, where a 3 year old was found dead in a Goodstart Early Learning Centre minibus at around 3:30pm on Tuesday. A police forensic officer inspects the van. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE
Police officers attend Hambledon State School at Edmonton, where a 3 year old was found dead in a Goodstart Early Learning Centre minibus at around 3:30pm on Tuesday. A police forensic officer inspects the van. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE

Sen-Sgt Marcum said police have alleged the computer sign in was a fraudulent procedure as it was performed because the family had used up too many absentee days for their childcare subsidy.

He said while this was done to "protect the family", the centre also received a financial benefit linked to attendance.

"It was a fraudulent transaction that was part of the foundation to how this tragedy occurred," he said.

"The failure to use the sign in on the bus, the misuse of the Quick Kids system all culminated to a situation where somehow, inexplicably, this defendant and co-accused collected the child and drove some distance … to the centre, in that short duration they've somehow forgotten the three-and-a-half-year-old deceased strapped into the vehicle.

"There was no safeguard in place to detect that."

Members of the public have laid flowers and left teddies at the Goodstart Early Learning Centre, Edmonton, following the tragic death of a boy, 3, left in a minibus. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE
Members of the public have laid flowers and left teddies at the Goodstart Early Learning Centre, Edmonton, following the tragic death of a boy, 3, left in a minibus. PICTURE: BRENDAN RADKE

The court heard Mr Lewis was born in Canada but has been living in Australia for almost 20 years and was a married father-of-three who had been centre manager for about 18 months.

Magistrate Jacqui Payne granted bail on the condition he have no contact with Ms Grills, daycare staff and witnesses, surrender his passport and not go near international departure points.

She said police alleged there had been a "significant systems failure", but Mr Lewis had given "extraordinary co-operation" to police and did not need to be in custody for his own protection.

Ms Grills was also granted bail on the condition she have no contact with the centre's staff and witnesses.

Police prosecutor Sen-Sgt Maynard Marcum told the court Ms Grills had only worked at the centre for a month. He said her charges "were not as egregious" as her co-accused.

The pair have both been stood down by Goodstart.

Magistrate Payne asked whether the charges came under new legislation, introduced in Queensland last year for reckless indifference to human life, but Sen-Sgt Marcum said it was just "straight manslaughter".

ALLEGED TIMELINE

7.39am: Boy signed in on daycare computer system

8.30am: Mother calls as boy not collected from home

9.15am: Boy collected from Mt Sheridan home

9.33am: Bus arrives back at Edmonton centre

9.45am: Michael Lewis drives bus to Bayview Heights for meeting

9.55am: Arrives at Bayview Heights

2.20pm: Leaves meeting at Bayview Heights

2.45pm: Bus begins pick-up route

3.16pm: Michael Lewis discovers body and calls triple-0

7.39am: Boy signed in on daycare computer system

8.30am: Mother calls as boy not collected from home

9.15am: Boy collected from
Mt Sheridan home

9.33am: Bus arrives back at Edmonton centre

9.45am: Michael Lewis
drives bus to Bayview
Heights for meeting

9.55am: Arrives at Bayview Heights

2.20pm: Leaves meeting at Bayview Heights

2.45pm: Bus begins pick-up rte

3.16pm: Michael Lewis discovers body and calls triple-0



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