Oberon murder case takes a heavy toll on police and paramedics

HEAVY TOLL: Investigating police were shocked by the trauma suffered by Joseph in the weeks leading to his death.
HEAVY TOLL: Investigating police were shocked by the trauma suffered by Joseph in the weeks leading to his death.

SHOCKING details of a three-year-old’s murder in Oberon have rocked the nation, but it has also emerged there has been a high personal cost for those charged with bringing his killers to justice.

The little boy, known only as Joseph, was subjected to 51 days of ongoing torture by his mother and her partner before sustaining fatal injuries inflicted on him by them.

On Thursday, the mother and stepfather were jailed for a minimum of 33 and 30 years respectively in the NSW Supreme Court.  

Leaving court on Thursday, Acting Inspector Detective Joel Fawkner spoke of the enormous personal price paid by police who investigated the murder as they worked to achieve justice for a little boy who never had a hope of protecting himself.

Emergency services who were called to the scene and those who treated Joseph as he lay clinging to life in Westmead also suffered.

Acting Inspector Fawkner said seasoned officers had quit the force after being involved with the “dreadful” case. A doctor has also stopped practiscing and paramedics have bee deeply traumatised.

“It’s very traumatic. I think this was inhumane and the torture of acts upon Joseph - you can’t unsee what we’ve seen,” he said.

At the time of the couple’s arrest in September 2014, Local Court magistrate Michael Allen - who refused a bail application by the stepfather – commented that in his 30-year involvement with the judicial system, he had never seen allegations “so abhorrent in their nature”.

The evidence Inspector Fawkner and his team of detectives collated, ultimately led to the conviction but was shocking for even hardened officers to process.

The mother, who cannot be identified, admitted to police that she had thoughts about killing her son because she “just didn’t connect with him”.

The abuse Joseph suffered at the hands of his mother and stepfather, Inspector Fawkner said, was torturous.

His eyes were taped closed with duct tape because he was staring at his parents. He had been hit with a spoon and, in one instance, forced into an esky for ice baths in a bid to bring out his bruises.

In the days before his death, Joseph’s mother jammed his head in a wardrobe door and punched him in the head.

She told police: “Don,t get me wrong, I did love that boy ... but there was a part of me that hated him ... because he looked like his father, because he’s his father's child.”

Inspector Fawkner said over 51 days little Joseph was ostracised, bashed and humiliated.

He said the only thing he could say was if you have children, love them and embrace how they are - and in difficult times, talk to people.

“This should have been avoidable,” he said.

“I can never accept this is our way of life.”

In sentencing, Justice Peter Johnson said the child’s mother and stepfather had worn Joseph down.

“Rather than nurturing her son, [she] punished him as if he was in some way responsible for the sins of his father. This was a grotesque and cruel feature of [her] conduct towards her son,” he said.

Justice Johnson said Joseph was vulnerable.

“By the time of the final assault causing death I am satisfied that Joseph had been worn down physically and psychologically by the assaults upon him so as to render him more vulnerable to the final and fatal attack,” he said.

As the boy’s mother returned to the cells, family members called from the stands: “Good. Hope you never get out.”

After she left, the family broke down and cried.