MANDY Martyn had a hold over Donna Thomas, magnified by her fears of a “loud-mouthed” and “threatening” woman.
This was pointed out by several witnesses when they gave evidence into the death of Daniel Thomas.
Coroner Jacinta Heffey said in her finding into Daniel’s death that some witnesses saw Ms Thomas being subservient whenever Ms Martyn was around.
Out of that, her finding reveals, came a climate that allowed the continual mistreatment of the two-year-old boy in Ms Martyn’s house in Standish Street, Myrtleford.
“There was no evidence of Daniel having been mistreated physically during his life prior to his mother taking up residence with Ms Martyn,” Ms Heffey recorded in her findings.
“I am satisfied that Ms Martyn was clearly the dominant person in the relationship with Ms Thomas and that she owed her nothing.”
The abuse outlined by Ms Heffey in those six or seven weeks under Ms Martyn’s care were initially blamed on Ms Thomas by Ms Martyn’s three children. But Ms Heffey pointed out the children — now aged from late teens to early 20s — had also volunteered their mother was responsible for this abuse.
That included seeing Ms Martyn putting Daniel in a cupboard, helping gag the boy, seeing Ms Thomas and their mother finish tying him to a bed or Ms Martyn telling Ms Thomas to blindfold him — “and that mostly it was their mother that slapped Daniel on the face”.
Evidence was given by witnesses that they saw a bruised Daniel forced to “spread-eagle” on the floor behind a couch and stare at a spot in the linoleum.
Ms Heffey said for Ms Martyn’s eight-year-old son to know the word “spread-eagled” suggested it was used frequently in the house at Standish Street.
But despite the role Ms Martyn played in Daniel’s abuse, Ms Heffey said the boy’s mother did not have to accept this as his fate.
That was because she was someone who had her own home to return to in Lawrence Street, who had family in Shepparton and who could access Aboriginal support programs.
“There was no reason why she could not have explored public housing in Shepparton and gone to live there with Daniel,” Ms Heffey said in her finding.
“Notwithstanding this, she remained under the same roof as someone who systematically mistreated her own son and she manifestly failed to protect or console him.
“She chose to do nothing and allowed the abuse to Daniel to continue.”
It could not be ignored, Ms Heffey said, that Ms Thomas “at times” was also seen to smack Daniel.
But she noted how a doctor had reported Daniel was “the best he had seen him” when he last saw him in July of 2003.
“That Ms Thomas had suddenly turned into a child abuser of the nature alleged in the course of a few weeks is most unlikely.”