Warning: This story contains upsetting details
An intellectually disabled girl was found decomposed in her cot with horrific sores on her body after being starved and left to die by her Kiwi father, Australian police allege.
Four-year-old Willow was found dead in the bedroom of a Brisbane property on Monday morning, with painful sores so deep the bones on her hips were exposed, police say. She had been dead for at least two days.
Her father, New Zealander Mark James Dunn, 43, has been charged with the girl's murder after he allegedly told officers he found Willow dead in her room on Saturday, but did not get medical help, even after discovering her face had been attacked by rats.
According to the Australian, Dunn allegedly asking paramedics who arrived at his house: "I'm in trouble, aren't I?"
Dunn previously shared pictures online where he can be seen holding a smiling baby with Down syndrome, and another child.
But three years later, he allegedly left her to die at a Cannon Hill home on or about Saturday May 23, court documents allege. Forensic investigators are working to determine whether the child could have been dead for days longer as she had the appearance of being malnourished.
Her stepmother, who lived at the house with her own children, has not been charged in relation to Willow's death. It is understood Willow's biological mother died after complications during birth.
The Courier-Mail understands those living at the house believed the child was unwell before her death. Neighbours spoken to by the Courier-Mail had never seen the young girl at the home.
Child Safety Minister Di Farmer yesterday did not answer questions about whether the family were known to the Department of Child Safety. "The death of any child is a tragedy," she said. "I know the death of this little girl has had a profound impact on our community and my deepest sympathies go to those who knew and loved this child."
Dunn was charged under the new extended definition of murder, which includes reckless indifference to human life.
It is one of the first charges to be brought under the State Government's new tough penalties for child-killers, introduced last year.
Under the new laws, the vulnerability of the victim can also be considered during sentencing.
Dunn, originally from New Zealand, had his matter briefly mentioned in the Brisbane Magistrates Court yesterday. He did not personally appear in court and was represented by the Legal Aid Queensland duty lawyer.
Dunn was remanded in custody and his case will return to court on July 20.
LNP shadow police minister Dan Purdie said "serious questions need to be asked" about Willow's case. The big question in such a horrific case of alleged neglect is how a vulnerable young child has slipped through the cracks and how this could have been prevented," the former child protection cop said. His comments come as child protection advocates say they are expecting an influx of child abuse reports as Covid-19 lockdowns lift.
"Often childcare or schools are the safest place for children, but with these closed and kids being at home, they may have been spending time with people who are harming them," Act for Kids executive director Stephen Beckett said.