Boy's Killer Mom Walks; Judge Blames Social Services For Death
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 2, 2004
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA--August 4 of last year was like any other day, Daniela Dawes told the Channel 9 television program "A Current Affair" Wednesday night.
"I prepared for work that day, I showered, I got dressed, I prepared Jason's things for school, just like every day," she said.
Then she went to her 10-year-old son's bed and used her hand to pinch closed his nose and mouth -- until he suffocated to death.
Mrs. Dawes then tried killing herself by slashing her wrists. She was rescued by her mother.
Dawes was released Wednesday on a five-year "good behavior bond", which is similar to probation, after being convicted on a reduced charge of manslaughter in the death of her son, who had autism.
New South Wales District Court Judge Roy Ellis said that the 39-year-old Dawes, who experienced severe depression at the time of the crime, "had suffered enough" and that no sentence he could give would compare to the punishment she would continue to inflict upon herself. He said there was no compelling reason for her to remain in custody.
Judge Ellis went on to slam social service agencies for not providing enough assistance to the Dawes family, which was dealing with marital problems along with the high level of care that Jason required.
"Having regard to the material before me, it is clear that the present system within NSW leaves a lot to be desired and was a significant stressor for this offender over an extended period of time," the judge told the court upon sentencing.
"It is little wonder this offender was unable to cope on the morning of the 4th of August 2003," he said.
Dawes agreed to appear on "A Current Affair" after arranging for $10,000 to go to an undisclosed person other than herself or her daughter. Australian law does not allow people convicted of a major crime to benefit financially from it.
"He wasn't the problem," Dawes said of her son. "Well, he was difficult. But the struggle with autism is a long-term struggle, but Jason's disability was not the reason for my depression . . . Of course it had to contribute, in that life was never easy."
The case reminded many of a similar New Zealand case from more than five years ago.
In October 1998, Janine Albury Thomson was charged with the strangulation murder of her 17-year-old daughter Casey, who also had autism.
Like in the Dawes case, Thomson was tried for murder but convicted of manslaughter in her daughter's death. She was sentenced to serve four years in prison, but the Court of Appeal later reduced her sentence to 18 months following pressure from the public.
Mrs. Thomson was released after serving just five months.
"Child murder case highlights lack of services for carers of disabled" (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)