Hitting out: Tanilla’s stepmother Brooke Bowen speaks outside court after hearing Tanilla’s mother, 29, plead guilty to manslaughter. Photo: Stephanie Gardiner
Died: Tanilla Warrick-Deaves.
The stepmother of a toddler who died on the Central Coast says community services should “hang their heads in shame” because her family made 33 reports with concerns for the girl’s welfare.
Two-year-old Tanilla Warrick-Deaves was found suffering several injuries in the early morning of August 27, 2011, at a house in Stonehaven Avenue, Watanobbi, and died in Wyong Hospital soon after.
In the NSW Supreme Court on Tuesday her mother, Donna Deaves, 29, pleaded not guilty to murder, but guilty to manslaughter.
Wearing a brown jumper and a collared shirt, Deaves stood and entered her plea in a clear voice.
Crown prosecutor, Terry Thorpe, accepted Deaves’ plea on the basis of “criminal negligence in that she did not get medical assistance for the deceased”.
Soon after Tanilla was found dead, police said they wanted to speak to anyone who may have known the toddler was being abused before her death, after a post-mortem examination showed “she did not die of natural causes”.
Outside court, Tanilla’s stepmother Brooke Bowen broke down.
Ms Bowen said the family made repeated calls to the the Department of Family and Community Services (FaCS), then known as the Department of Community Services, about concerns for the toddler’s welfare.
“It wasn’t just the last two weeks of her life she was being reported. She had 33 reports on her and she was only two-and-a-half. Alarm bells, hello?
“They let Tanilla down. A lot of people let Tanilla down.
“Let’s just hope after this is all over something can change in the system. It’s not going to bring Tanilla back, it’s not going to bring any other children back, but let’s hope this is an example to get them up on their toes.”
In a statement, a FaCS spokesman said the department was “deeply saddened by the tragic case of this little girl”.
But there would be no further comment until Deaves’ court case, and related cases, were finalised, the spokesman said.
Deaves was first charged with being an accessory to murder but after continuing investigations, police upgraded the charge to manslaughter, then murder.
A co-accused, who is awaiting trial, is charged with the girl’s murder.
Ms Bowen described Tanilla as a “beautiful little girl”.
“We never had a problem with her. She was happy, she loved everybody. She was a happy-go-lucky little girl.”
She said Tanilla’s father, Adrian Warrick, was not coping well.
“He’s an emotional wreck. He can’t face Donna at the moment.
“He’s getting better and as long as he’s in the right frame of mind … to get well for himself … so we can carry on and get justice for Tanilla because that’s what it’s all about.”
Deaves will face a sentence hearing in September.
The girl’s family has given permission to identify her.