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HomeNewsKerri-Ann Conley pleads guilty to manslaughter of kids left in hot car

Kerri-Ann Conley pleads guilty to manslaughter of kids left in hot car

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Two girls left to die in a hot car by their negligent mum were covered in blisters and burns, with their skin “peeling off” as paramedics tried to revive them, a court has been told.

The horrific injuries of Darcy-Helen, 2.5, and Chloe-Ann, 1, were revealed as their mother Kerri-Ann Conley pleaded guilty at Brisbane Supreme Court on Tuesday to causing their untimely deaths nearly four years ago.

Conley cried and wiped her eyes throughout proceedings as the scale of her “stupid” and selfish” acts after failing to take the two girls inside was laid bare.

“This is not a case of an unfortunate lapse in memory … the deaths of these children could have been easily avoided,” Crown prosecutor Sarah Dennis told the court during her submissions.

The court was told both girls had significant burns, blisters and broken skin across their bodies when they were eventually taken from the hot car on November 23, 2019.

Darcy-Helen and Chloe-Ann had been left in the sweltering family car since sunrise that day after Ms Conley returned home from a friend’s house.

“The skin was peeling off as the paramedics performed CPR,” Ms Dennis said.

Autopsies confirmed the girls died of hyperthermia, but a time of death could not be properly established.

Family members, including Conley’s mother and the father of one of the children, Peter Jackson, sat in the back of Brisbane Supreme Court as the horrific series of events was laid bare.

The court was told Conley took Darcy-Helen and Chloe-Ann to a friend’s house the day before at 11.30pm.

She put them to sleep and spent time socialising at the house before leaving the next morning at 4.10am.

Summarising the agreed facts, Ms Dennis said Conley left the children secured inside the car with the doors locked and the vehicle parked under no shade after she returned home.

Temperatures in the car reached up to 61.5 degrees throughout the day, the court was told.

Phone records revealed Conley was using her mobile phone until after 5am before going to sleep, her children still inside the car.

She woke later in the afternoon, finally taking the children out of the car and into the house.

At this point, both girls had died.

Home surveillance cameras captured Conley disposing of a plastic bag in a bin.

During their investigations, officers found several small clip-seal bags – which they suspected contained residue of drugs – inside the bag.

Conley then phoned the father of one of the girls, who advised her to call triple-0.

“She told them she had fallen asleep and had left the children in the car,” Ms Dennis said.

“She was in a distressed state.”

The children’s skin was covered in blisters, was hot to touch and peeled off as paramedics attempted to treat them, Ms Dennis said.

She told the court that Conley gave a false account of what happened the night before to police in a bid to minimise her involvement.

The court was told Conley had left her daughters in the car on previous occasions, with neighbours witnessing the incidents.

Ms Dennis said Conley on those occasions explained that she left them there because they were sleeping and were “difficult” to settle once awakened.

In her submissions, Ms Dennis said Conley’s children were “entirely defenceless” and had no way of freeing themselves from the car or protecting themselves from the elements.

“It represents a complete abrogation of her duties as the mother and primary carer of her children,” she said.

Ms Dennis described Conley as a “heavy and frequent” drug user.

Traces of the drug ice as well as amphetamines were found in her blood and she admitted to smoking a “point-and-a-half” of methylamphetamine the day before the incident.

Conley was initially charged with murder under Queensland legislation introduced just a few weeks before the incident that includes reckless indifference to human life as a form of murder.

But she entered pleas of guilty to two counts of manslaughter when brought into court on Tuesday.

She also pleaded guilty to other charges of possessing drugs and drug utensils.

Asked if she wished to say anything during her arraignment, Conley quietly replied: “No, Your Honour.”

Jeffrey Hunter KC, Conley’s barrister, told the court that his client’s guilt would burden her for the rest of her life.

“(It was) a tremendously stupid, arguably selfish and admittedly grossly negligent decision to leave the children in the car,” Mr Hunter said.

Conley had a poor relationship with her mother, who had not visited her in custody for three years, the court was told.

Mr Hunter said his client had otherwise been described as a doting and devoted mother to her daughters.

“She never exhibited the slightest animosity to her children,” he said.

The court was told Conley was forthwith about what happened when paramedics attended by admitting she had fallen asleep.

Supreme Court justice Peter Applegarth will sentence Conley at a later date.

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