Police are investigating how and why a quiet 12-year-old girl from the Hunter Valley has been the latest child victim of violence in the home.
The girl’s mother found the child dead in her bed yesterday morning at 5.45 – her lifeless body showing signs of violence.
Police tracked down the girl’s 31-year-old stepfather two hours later, he was driving from the scene two kilometres away and was arrested without incident.
Last night the man was charged with murder.
Yesterday, a touching floral tribute next to still erect police tape outside the girl’s Aberglasslyn home showed the community’s grief while police still hunt for answers.
They are trying to shed light on the horror that evolved before the girl’s death.
The Newcastle Herald reported that police will investigate whether the girl, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was bashed the night before she died and either sent to bed or placed in her bed.
Exactly how the girl died and at what time will not be known until a full autopsy is completed by forensic pathologists, possibly today.
Central Hunter commander Detective Superintendent Craig Jackson had little information to add.
“The body did show some signs of violence, but in so far as when violence was inflicted, we are still making inquiries in relation to that,” Detective Superintendent Jackson said.
“It would appear that there have been no previous reports (of domestic violence) made.”
Three other children who also live in the home, who are not injured, will be interviewed by specialists trained to work with children. It is unknown whether either of them witnessed the alleged assault.
The young girl, who was a Year 7 student at a high school in the Maitland area, has been described as a quiet girl who kept to herself.
Neighbours said the family, who are believed to be part of the region’s large African community, also kept to themselves.
“You’d see the girl walking past sometimes to the shop or whatever, but she was very quiet; she would just keep her head down,” neighbour Megan Colman said.
“It’s just such a horrible thing to happen. I really feel for that poor mother.”
She said it was out of character for them, but thought perhaps somebody was breaking into a nearby residential construction site, but she saw no signs of an intrusion.
The accused, now charged with murder, spent yesterday being questioned and will face Maitland Local Court today. Supt Jackson said he could not comment about whether drugs played a part in the alleged attack.
“No matter how you look at this it’s nothing short of a tragedy,” Detective Superintendent Jackson said.
“The message I’ll put out there to the community is if you are experiencing domestic violence, if you know of someone who is experiencing domestic violence, then contact your local police.”
The tributes of flowers and teddy bears left by school friends at the scene yesterday shows the innocence of the young life taken.