Three year-old killed for looking like his dad
A JURY has found a mother and stepfather guilty of murdering a three-year-old boy despite the pair claiming he died as a result of being knocked over by two dogs in a park at Oberon in the state's central west.
It took the jury just two days to deliver the verdicts, which were handed down in the NSW Supreme Court.
During the seven week trial the court heard the little boy - who can be identified today for the first time by his first name Joseph - was systematically abused in the seven weeks leading up to his death by his mother, 42, because he looked like his biological father.
Outside court Joseph's uncle said he was happy with the guilty verdicts.
"I was very happy with the jury's decision, there are no winners today, the little boy won't be coming back, we lost a family member" he said as he fought back tears.
As the foreperson read the verdicts, her voice cracked.
The jury were at times brought to tears as they heard evidence of how the toddler was held captive in ice-filled eskies, beaten with a wooden spoon, gagged with duct tape and had his head slammed in doors.
The boy's mother had also repeatedly spoken of how she wanted to kill her son and spoke of desires to "pummel" his head with a baseball bat.
During her opening address to the NSW Supreme Court in February, Crown Prosecutor Margaret Cunneen, SC, explained how little Joseph was leading a "happy, healthy, normal" life with his extended family in Sydney before his maternal mother took custody of him and moved him back to a house in Oberon she shared with her new husband.
Within weeks of his arrival, he was dead.
The court heard how on August 3, 2014, the boy's mother called triple-0 explaining her son was not breathing.
He was flown to hospital after having a cardiac arrest but died a few days later. The court heard at the time of his death he had suffered brain swelling, a number of blunt force injuries and was covered in scabs and bruises.
During an interview with police the mother and stepfather told police the little boy had been playing in a park near their home and had become entangled in two ropes which were attached to the family dogs "Chaos" and "Havoc".
The mother also confessed to repeatedly abusing her son because he reminded her of his natural father.
It was the Crown case that the boy's stepfather was also guilty of murder because he was part of a joint criminal enterprise with the mother to abuse and mistreat him.
Ms Cuneen argued the toddler was never taken to the park on the day he lost consciousness.
"It is the Crown case that [the boy]was in no state to be taken to the park that day and this was all a ruse in order to explain what had happened to [him]," Ms Cunneen said.
During the trial the court heard from the deceased toddler's older brother who told the jury about a time he heard the little boy screaming after being locked inside an ice-filled Esky.
The brother also gave evidence about how he witnessed his little brother desperately trying to rip duct tape off his eyes on one occasion but the mother and stepfather kept sticking it back on.
The mother's defence barrister told the jury his client maintained her son died as a result of an accident in the park and there was medical evidence that supported her claim.
Both the mother and stepfather maintained their innocence and pleaded not guilty to murder.