DONNA Thomas told police she had moved in with Mandy Martyn to get the help she needed to care for her son.
Instead, Ms Thomas said Daniel, 2, was horrifically abused and she lived in fear of the woman who she says killed the little boy.
Ms Thomas’ three-hour interview with police, recorded five days after Ms Martyn reported Daniel missing, was screened in the Wangaratta Coroners Court yesterday.
At the interview’s conclusion, Ms Thomas told Detective Sgt Russell Sheather she had played a part in Daniel’s death by not protecting him.
“In your eyes, I’m to blame too ... I should’ve done more than I did,” she said.
Ms Thomas said she had met Ms Martyn at the Mungabareena Aboriginal Co-operative.
“She was all alone and I wanted to have friends in Myrtleford,” Ms Thomas said.
What began as short visits developed into overnight stays before Ms Thomas shifted from her Lawrence Street house into Ms Martyn’s Standish Street home seven weeks before Daniel disappeared.
Ms Thomas said Ms Martyn had offered to help “deal” with Daniel, who suffered acute eczema that required almost head-to-toe bandages when it flared up.
“Why don’t you stay with me and I’ll discipline Daniel,” Ms Thomas said Ms Martyn had told her.
Ms Thomas said Ms Martyn had tied Daniel to his bed, kept him under the house, gagged him and put him in a cupboard for up to two days.
“The way Mandy got drummed into me; I’m to do nothing with Daniel. I don’t know how, but verbally she drummed it into me,” Ms Thomas said.
“I thought; it’s your house, your rules.”
The abuse came to a climax on the night when Ms Thomas said she heard a thump and discovered her motionless son lying on a bloody towel of the floor of his room. She said she had watched as Ms Martyn flung him onto his bed, with only bathmats as a mattress.
There, she said, Daniel lay motionless — believed to be dead — for two days before she left for a parenting class in Shepparton and four days before Ms Martyn reported him missing on October 17, 2003.
Ms Thomas told police she had done first-aid training for 11 years and had dreamt of becoming a nurse.
She said she wanted to believe Daniel was alive so did not check him or call for help.
But, she told police, she had sought help from a vet for a cat and its kittens on the day before she left for Shepparton.
Ms Thomas said she was still in Shepparton when Ms Martyn had called her after she reported Daniel missing.
“All she said was ‘Daniel’s missing, Daniel’s gone’,” Ms Thomas said.
She told Detective Sgt Sheather Ms Martyn had removed Daniel’s body from the house.
“He’d been buried somewhere,” Ms Thomas said.