A New South Wales mother accused of murdering her son, 5, and trying to kill his eight-year-old brother told police she "blacked out and drowned them both" because one of them "turned evil", a court has heard.
The 28-year-old Deniliquin woman, who can not be named for legal reasons, is on trial for the murder of her youngest child and the attempted murder of her oldest, in the Murray River at Moama on March 2, 2017.
In Wagga Wagga court this morning, the woman sat in the dock for the second consecutive day after yesterday pleading not guilty to both charges by way of mental illness.
She constantly twisted her ponytail and rocked side to side with her hands outstretched and placed on her knees, crying on and off, occasionally holding the white plastic bag, towel or bottle of water placed next to her.
Defense barrister Eric Wilson SC sought leave for his client during the playing of police interviews recorded after the killing because "at times she struggles with the emotion of the content of the material". He said he was concerned the accused would lose focus if she was distressed.
Justice Richard Button noted the woman had been crying, "bizarrely plaiting her hair" and "rocking back and forth" throughout the proceedings. He described the suggestion of having her stay during the "playing of exhibits" as "formalistic" before granting permission for her to return to the cells.
"As soon as they are finished playing she should return to the dock," Mr Button said.
In an extraordinary video of her first police interview played in court, the accused told detectives the day after the tragedy, that she had "blacked out and drowned her babies".
"I do not know (why that happened). Because he turned evil, "she said.
Asked how that happened, the woman responded: "Because my whole life was a lie".
The NSW Supreme Court yesterday heard that the woman was on supervised parole after having been released from prison, on aggravated break and enter and drug offenses, one month prior to the incident.
In his opening address, Crown Prosecutor Max Pincott said on the morning of the killing, the woman appeared angry and had called her mother from the Victorian town of Goornong and told her: "You will not see us anymore".
A few hours later, the accused took her then-five and eight year old sons to the riverbank and forced them underwater, the judge-alone trial heard.
A witness who heard screams ran to the river and saw the older boy being viciously attacked by a dog. He carried him away and the boy said words to the effect of: "I think I'm the only survivor", the rescuer said in a statement. Another man saw the woman floating on her back in the river soon after. On Tuesday, the court heard the accused was trying to kill herself.
The child was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries and spent the next three days on a ventilator because he developed severe pneumonia from the attempted drowning. The court heard he told police: "Mum told me to put my head in and she dunked me in there and I was starting to suffocate as she was hopping on me and then I got out and my mum dunked my brother and the dog started biting me ". In a statement, one witness said the boy was "screaming and naked (and) covered in blood."
His five-year-old brother's lifeless body was found in the river two days later following an extensive search by authorities.
On the night of drowning, local resort owner Michael Falzon saw the woman walking into his work premises soaking wet, bleeding and crying, about 9pm.
Mr Pincott said the witness observed that the woman's pants were ripped below her knee and so asked if she was alright.
"She answered:" I drowned my babies, "said Mr Pincott.
"When asked what she meant, she replied: 'I had to drown my babies'."
In a statement, Mr Falzon said the accused told him: "I just want a bullet, I should be dead".
Mr Falzon then took the woman to the police station upon her request.
"He observed on the way to the police station the accused was crying and saying 'my babies my babies'," Mr Pincott told the judge.
The court heard that the woman told police: "I killed my kids …" I did not want to do it. I am such a motherfu ** er ".
Mr Pincott said that when police asked where her kids were, she became upset and screamed: "I fu ** ing drowned them". The court heard she then referenced a former partner she had not had contact with since 2016.
"F ** k that c ** t needs to be shot," she said to officers, the court heard.
In his opening address on Monday, Mr Wilson said his client believed she was saving her children by killing them.
"She was keeping them safe your honor," he said.
The court heard she was delusional and believed she was "going to be raped, tortured … and had to prevent her children from witnessing that … or they would be killed themselves".
"She was suffering from a seriously disturbed mental state," Mr Wilson said.
"She thought she was saving them from being killed (in a worse way).
"She believes that she actually kept them safe."
The judge said it was "thoroughly bizarre to say that to save one's children they must kill them".
Crown witness Dr Jonathon Adams, a forensic psychiatrist who assessed the accused murderer, told the court she appeared to have a borderline personality disorder and was likely suffering delusional beliefs at the time of the alleged offense.
"I think she has borderline personality disorder, a longstanding substance abuse disorder and a likely major depressive disorder," Dr. Adams said.
"It appeared to me her mental state was deteriorating in the four weeks prior to the alleged offense."
The court heard that the woman had a history of drug abuse but that toxicology reports showed she did not have any traces of illicit substances in her system at the time of her arrest.
Dr. Adams said his patient had told him she used the drug ice once – to celebrate her birthday – in the four weeks between her release from jail and drowning her children.
She had also not been taking her prescribed antipsychotic medication since being released from prison in February, the judge was told. In the days leading up to the alleged murder and attempted murder, the woman was seen screaming to herself: "You stupid sl **", "stupid b ** ch" and "I'm going to kill him". She was also caught shoplifting on two occasions during that time. The woman's mother Robyn Connor, who was caring for the boys, had taken an apprehended violence order (AVO) out on her daughter which banned her from coming near within 24 hours of consuming illicit drugs or alcohol.
The court heard that the accused had threatened "to drive with her and the boys into a tree" during a conversation with her mother in 2015. Ms Connor reported the incident to police at the time, the court was told.
The court heard the woman was subjected to physical, sexual and emotional abuse as a child and as an adult and that she had a family history of schizophrenia.
Dr. Adams said she had been "tormented" by voices in her head since the age of seven. In a report, he noted she had been self-harming since she was nine, first overdosed at age 13 and attempted suicide dozens of times. He said years of chronic substance abuse had worsened her condition and that she had most recently tried to starve herself behind bars.
The trial continues.