A nine-month-old girl whose body washed up on Surfers Paradise beach was probably still alive when tossed into a river by her mentally ill father, a judge has heard.
The 49-year-old man, who has pleaded not guilty to murder, later claimed to have “sacrificed” the infant as her coming first birthday “would have meant the end of the world”, his NSW supreme court trial was told on Monday.
The homeless man allegedly carried his daughter through torrential rain and “cast her” into the Tweed River as his partner and young son sheltered in the Tweed Mall car park on 17 November 2018.
“It is possible [she] had already been smothered,” the crown prosecutor, Brendan Campbell, said in his opening address. “However, it is more likely she was still alive and drowned.”
Currents and tides took the girl 20km north to the Gold Coast beach, where an 18-year-old school leaver made the discovery on a midnight walk on 19 November.
While in police custody and appearing “floridly psychotic”, the man was recorded saying he had sacrificed the girl to save all the children of the world.
“[He said] if she’d turned one it would have meant the end of the world,” Campbell said. “There were garbled biblical themes accompanied by grandiose statements.”
The man also told police the girl was a “corruption” and a “demon”, contending it was his “prophecy” to kill her. The accused man cannot be named, as doing so would identify his son.
The prosecutor told the court a forensic psychiatrist would tell justice Helen Wilson that the father had a long history of delusional beliefs involving infants and suffered from a schizophrenic disorder.
Campbell said Prof David Greenberg would tell the court that at the time of the girl’s death, her father was labouring under a defect of reason from a disease of the mind and was therefore unaware his act was morally wrong.
The prosecutor said the judge, who is hearing the trial without a jury, would be told the relationship between the accused man and the girl’s mother was marked by mental illness and domestic violence.
The woman fell pregnant with the couple’s son soon after they met in March 2016. Her second pregnancy in 2017 made the father unhappy and he tried to have relatives take the baby before and after the girl’s birth in February 2018.
The young family of four lived an erratic lifestyle, living at times in a tent at Broadbeach, in a motel room at Surfers Paradise and out of a van at Chris Cunningham Park on the banks of the Tweed.
Amid continuing episodes of domestic violence, the children’s mother determined to leave her partner and return to her family in Geelong in October 2018.
Flights were booked but she and the children never boarded the plane after she apparently decided against keeping her son from his father, Campbell said.
The father then became increasingly violent towards the mother and disdainful to his daughter. The morning of his daughter’s homicide, he convinced his partner to hand over the infant to a homeless woman, the court heard.
That woman soon realised she was unable to care for the baby and returned her before a large storm swept over Tweed Heads, Campbell said. The trial continues.