Saturday, October 1, 2022

Pokie mum’s lies after leaving baby in boiling car

A Melbourne mum who left her baby in a hot car for five hours while she played the pokies told a shocking series of lies after the tragedy in a bid to save herself.

WARNING: DISTRESSING CONTENT

On a scorching summer’s day, a 14-month-old boy was left alone in a car outside a suburban Melbourne pub.

For five hours, baby Easton suffered as temperatures outside reached nearly 38C on January 15, 2020.

When his mother Kaija Millar returned to check on him, he was convulsing in his car seat, foaming at the mouth and his skin had turned blue-grey.

The 32-year-old woman ran screaming back into Brook Hotel with the child clutched in her arms.

“He’s going to die, he’s going to die – don’t die bubba,” Millar yelled to the other patrons.

She begged them not to tell her husband where they were and what happened.

The first-time mother had been playing pokies and bingo at the gaming venue since she arrived at 9.50am.

It wasn’t until 2.50pm she went to see her only child and uncovered the hideous scene.

Easton survived but suffered catastrophic injuries that left him permanently disabled. He is now blind, has a severe brain injury and cannot speak or sit up without aid.

Millar was sentenced in the County Court of Victoria on Friday to three years imprisonment after pleading guilty to negligently causing serious injury.

She must spend at least 12 months behind bars before she is eligible for parole.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, Millar repeatedly lied about what happened and made excuses for what she did.

After begging the patrons to keep quiet, she lied to staff from a nearby medical center who hastened over to help.

When paramedics arrived, she told them the boy had been in the car since 12.30pm, hours after she actually arrived. She claimed the windows were all open and the airconditioning was on.

“I’ve been checking on him every two hours and I went out this time to go and he was frothing at the mouth and I could not wake him,” she told them.

In a telling comment, she said she wanted the boy to survive because “I don’t want to go to jail”.

Footage from the pub showed she never checked on the boy.

When police probed her about the discrepancy she then claimed she looked out through the venue’s windows to see him. It was another falsehood.

“You lied about why he was in the state he was in, blaming bushfire haze for affecting his breathing,” Judge Felicity Hampel said in her sentencing remarks.

“You lied about how long he was in the car, about leaving the windows open and leaving the airconditioning on.”

She continued to maintain some of those lies and minimized her behaviour, the judge found.

“You knew what you were doing was wrong,” Judge Hampel said.

The judge said anyone would know the risks of leaving their child unattended in a car on a hot day.

“This was not a tragic accident, something unforeseen, unanticipated and unavoidable,” she said.

“Your son suffered these injuries because you left him unattended, uncared for in that hot, windows closed, locked car in an open air carpark on a scorching day, while you were inside for five hours.”

She acknowledged the young mother was struggling with parenthood, and suffered from anxiety and post-natal depression.

Millar did not have a gambling addiction but would go to the venue to socialize with the other regulars who were mostly elderly, which was “telling and rather sad”, the judge said.

“You’re a young woman whose circumstances are to some extent pathetic,” Judge Hampel said.

The now 34-year-old was also genuinely remorseful and had an “unrealistic dream” the boy would be returned to her care, the judge said.

The mother also had a low IQ but in an earlier pre-sentence hearing, her lawyer argued among her mental health issues that she suffered “menstrual-cycle related” cognitive symptoms.

She was bullied at school, was “utterly overwhelmed” by the demands of motherhood and felt her husband did not support her enough, the court was told at the time.

The lies she told to authorities should be given little weight and she was in a situation of “shock, panic and immense distress”, argued defense lawyer Michael Allen.

While he pushed for his client to receive a community corrections order, the judge rejected it.

The judge told the woman the sentence was not to be taken “in any way as a measure of your child’s life”.

“This is to punish you and to sentence you for your role in negligently causing that serious injury to him,” she said.

Read related topics:Melbourne

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