THE mother of Wodonga baby Charlotte Rose Keen had been doting and loving with her daughter before she began a downward spiral into drugs, an inquest into the death of the infant heard yesterday.
Two witnesses yesterday recalled that Renee Jones would sometimes use profanities towards her baby, calling her “a little bitch” and more profane names, but neither ever saw any physical abuse of the 11-month-old.
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Charlotte died at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne on December 17, 2004, three days shy of her first birthday.
On the opening day of an inquest into her death in Wodonga this week, Melbourne neurosurgeon David Wallace told the hearing that injuries suffered by Charlotte were consistent with shaken baby syndrome.
No one has ever been charged over her death and her mother has strenuously denied any involvement.
Yesterday, witness Adrian Dryden told the hearing he once “got up and left” after hearing Ms Jones call Charlotte profane names.
Mr Dryden had spent about three weeks staying at the Wodonga home of Ms Jones, Charlotte’s father Graeme Keen and Charlotte.
But he said all three adults were using drugs at the time, and his memory was poor.
“We were friends, we were all on drugs, we were having a good time,” he said yesterday.
In his statement made to police on January 21, 2005, Mr Dryden said: “I don’t know if it (the name-calling) was because she (Renee) was coming off drugs”.
Amanda Jones — Charlotte’s aunt and the sister of Renee — said she had sometimes heard her sister call Charlotte names.
In a police statement made on February 1, 2005, she told police Ms Jones “always called her a little bitch”.
But yesterday she clarified that, saying she heard it only a couple of times when Ms Jones was frustrated and Charlotte would not settle.
She told coroner Jacinta Heffey that she had seen her sister’s behaviour towards Charlotte “fall away”.
“I have no doubt drugs contributed,” she said in her statement.
“She used to smother Charlotte with affection and that fell away.
“It was almost as if Renee didn’t want Charlotte around.”
She said she was concerned her sister had begun using drugs because it was “common knowledge” that the people she was hanging around with were drug users.
She said that group included both Charlotte’s father Graeme Keen and Brett Penrose, who Renee Jones had begun to share a home with in the weeks leading up to Charlotte’s death.
Ms Jones said she had not approved of her sister moving in with Mr Penrose.
“I just thought that being so close to the break-up with Graeme that she should try to be on her own without leaning on someone,” she told the court.
“The amount of drugs going on ... the whole scene. It wasn’t good for my niece.
“It was a bad environment for a child. It was a poor choice for a mother to make.”
The inquest continues today.