WARNING: Disturbing content
A little boy has given a harrowing account of being almost drowned by his mother and watching his five-year-old brother die when she allegedly turned him on, in a police interview played in court.
The child, who told the detectives his favorite cartoon character was the purple Ninja Turtle, Donatello, was just nine years old when he survived the horrific ordeal in Murray River at Moama in NSW on March 2, 2017.
His mother, and a 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 eldest.
The woman is today in the Wagga Wagga court on the third day of her week-long trial after her earlier pleading not guilty of both charges by way of mental illness.
In a video played in court this morning, the surviving child spoke to detectives from his hospital bed just hours after the incident and said his mother had lured the brothers to the river on the false pretense of fishing.
Once the boys were in the water, their mother instructed the eldest boy to "put your head under," he said.
"I just said 'no' … and then she dunked my head under the water. (I was) scared.
"My whole body (was under the water). My face was down."
The boy said his mother "had her arm on my throat" and that he could feel the sand at the bottom of the river.
"Then I started hitting her so she would let go of me but she did not," he said.
"I was starting to suffocate as she was hopping on me.
"(Eventually she released me) and then she grabbed my brother and did the same thing to him."
The court heard the nine-year-old boy told the police that when he made it to the bank he looked back at the river and saw his mother shaking my brother in the water. The boy never saw his little brother again.
In her police interview played in the court yesterday, the woman described the horrific moment she forced the boys into a river, and held them under water.
On Tuesday, Justice Richard Button noted the woman had been crying, "bizarrely plaiting her hair" and "rocking back and forth" throughout the proceedings and so excused her from the court while her police interviews were played.
In the video, the accused told detectives the day after the tragedy, that she had "blacked out and drowned her babies" because one of them "turned evil."
The woman told the police she first turned her eldest son and "held his head under" the water.
"It was horrible," she said during the interview.
"He kept staying alive for a little bit, and I had to sit on top of him, I could not hold him down because he was so strong."
In the video, the woman told detectives that at one stage she heard one of her sons scream: "Just stop, Mummy."
The NSW Supreme Court heard the boy struggling for air before he eventually broke free.
"I did not want to keep doing it," the accused said during her police interview.
"It was so f *** in 'wrong."
She then turned her sights to the younger boy, the court heard. In the video, she wailed as she told detectives she had one hand on her five-year-old son's head and the other on his chest, while "holding him down".
She said she could feel the little boy struggling, but she did not relinquish her hold on him until he stopped, the court heard.
"I pushed him and let him float away so people would find him," she said.
The child's lifeless body was found in the river two days later following an extensive search by authorities.
In a statement, she said she "caused the death of her (her) child by drowning him" and she "was (she) intended to kill" both of the boys when she took them into the river.
Earlier, the court heard that the woman was on a supervised parole after being released from prison, aggravated break and enter offenses, one month before the incident.
In his opening address, Crown Prosecutor Max Pincott said on the morning of the killings, 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 sons to the riverbank and forced them underwater, the judge-alone trial heard.
A witness who heard the screams ran to the river and saw the older boy being viciously attacked by a dog. He carried him away and the boy said the words to the effect of: "I think I'm the only survivor," the rescuer said in a statement. In a statement, one witness said the surviving boy was "screaming and naked (and) covered in blood".
In his police interview video played in court
"I started yelling out to my mum," the boy said in the video.
"I said 'someone please help'.
"I tried to put my hands on the dog's face so he would not do it but he was too strong."
Another man saw the woman floating on her back in the river soon after. On Tuesday, the court heard the accused trying to kill herself.
The nine-year-old was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries and spent the next three days on a ventilator with aspiration pneumonia from attempted drowning.
Later that night, the local resort owner Michael Falzon saw the woman walking into his work premises soaking wet, bleeding and crying at about 9pm.
Mr Pincott said the witness had noticed that the woman's pants were ripped under her knee and so asked if she was all right.
"She answered: 'I drowned my babies,'" Mr Pincott said.
"When she asked what she meant, she said:" 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 on her request.
"He noticed 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 the police: "I killed my kids … I did not want to do it. I'm such a motherf *** er."
Mr Pincott said that when she asked where her kids were, she became upset and screamed: "I f *** ing them drowned them."
The court heard she then referred to a former partner she had not had contact with since 2016.
"F ** k that c ** t needs to be shot," she said to the officers, the court heard.
Defense Barrister Eric Wilson SC 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 she 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's actually kept them safe."
The judge said it was "thoroughly bizarre to think these acts were the solution to the problem."
"One would know that being drowned is certainly not a pleasant death," Mr Button said.
"It's not like boys were given sleeping pills and just drifted off to sleep.
"Being drowned would be a terrible way to die."
Crown witness Dr Jonathon Adams, a forensic psychiatrist who evaluated the accused murderer, told the court she appeared to have a borderline personality disorder and was probably suffering delusional beliefs at the time of the alleged offense.
"I think she has a borderline personality disorder, a longstanding substance abuse disorder and a likely major depressive disorder," Dr Adams said.
"It appeared to me that her mental state was deteriorating in the four weeks before the alleged offense."
The court heard that the woman had a history of drug abuse but that toxicology reports showed she had no 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 prison and drowning her children.
She was also not taking antipsychotic medication since she was released from prison in February, the judge was told. In the days leading up to the alleged murder and attempted murder, the woman was screaming to herself: "You stupid sl * t", "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, who cared for the boys, had taken an apprehended violence order (AVO) out on her daughter, who had banned her from coming in 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. The incident was reported to the police at the time.
The court heard the woman was subjected to physical, sexual and emotional abuse as a child and as an adult, and she had a family history of schizophrenia.
Dr Adams said she had been "tormented" by her voice in her head since the age of seven. In a report, he noted that she had been self-harm since she was nine, first overdosed at age 13 and attempted suicide of dozens of times. He said years of chronic substance abuse had worsened her condition and that she had recently tried to starve herself behind bars.
The trial continues.