UPDATE: The mother of Kiesha Whippeart has been sentenced to to 22 and a half years – with a non parole period of 16 years – for the murder of her 6-year-old daughter in 2010.
In sentencing, Justice Ian Harrison said Kristi Abraham’s offence of murder lay “in the middle of the range”.
He said he couldn’t say beyond reasonable doubt that Abrahams wanted to kill her child, but that he could say the 30-year-old “intended to inflict grevious bodily harm”.
He also said Abrahams sentence was reduced by 10 per cent because she pleaded guilty in June.
Reports from the court suggest Abrahams did not react as she was being sentenced.
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Little Kiesha Weippeart’s life ended in the most horrific way imaginable.
In 2010, the six year old’s mother, Kristi Anne Abrahams, punched her in the head with enough force to kill her.
But she did not die immediately.
She clung to life for 24 hours, enduring what must have been extraordinary pain and distress. Kiesha’s desperate, futile fight for life didn’t happen in a hospital but in the house where she was beaten. In full view of her mother and stepfather Robert Smith, neither of whom sought help for the little girl as she lay dying.
In fact they left her there for another week, before her stepfather stuffed her decomposing body into a suitcase and caught a taxi to bushland in Sydney’s west where he set Kiesha’s body on fire before burying it. And then he returned home to Kristi Anne and the couple’s two remaining children, a baby boy and a toddler daughter.
It would be another week before Kiesha’s name would become public.
That’s when her mother and step-father fronted the media after reporting her missing to police.
I’m no detective but the moment I saw that press conference, I knew. Nothing made sense. The story – that they’d woken up one Sunday morning to find her gone from their Mount Druitt unit and that they’d gone to check down at the local shopping centre before calling police – was plainly bogus.
Kiesha’s mother, Kristi Anne Abrahams, wore dark glasses and held a tissue in front of her face as she appeared to sob while her partner stood shiftily beside her.
Jarringly, they both referred to Kiesha in the past tense, despite the fact she’d only been reported missing for a day and they were ostensibly making a plea for her return.
Kristi Anne talked to reporters while holding a new baby or her toddler daughter and instinctively, I feared for those children.
With good reason as it turned out.
A year later, the pair would be arrested near her secluded bush burial spot on what should have been the little Kiesha’s 7th birthday. It appears they had been going to pay their respects.
I want to vomit when I write that sentence just as you probably did when you read it.
Oh the horror that little girl endured at the hands of the evil adults trusted with her care, not just at the end but it would seem throughout her short life.
As Kristi Anne Abrahams pleaded guilty yesterday on the day her trial for murder was due to begin. Robert Smith, was jailed in May for at least 12 years after pleading guilty to her manslaughter and being an accessory after the fact.
And now, finally, some of the incredibly distressing facts about Kiesha’s life can be told, must be told, so that perhaps as a society we might begin to rethink the decisions that are made around kids at risk.
We will never know 99 percent of what Kiesha endured. Because small children don’t know how to report abuse. They only know how to trust the adults who are meant to take care of them.
But in addition to the basic details of how she died, we know this.
When she was only 15 months old, Kiesha Weippeart was hospitalised because her mother had bitten her.
Take a moment to digest the idea of a mother biting her baby so badly, she required hospitalisation. Consider what may have gone on before that point.
Abrahams was convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and placed on a good behaviour bond.
DOCs stepped in and placed Kiesha with a foster family for the next 18 months – more than half of her short, traumatic life. Her mother was required to do an anger management course. And then Kiesha was returned to her and stepfather Robert Smith, just before the little girl turned three.
For the remaining three years of her life, we don’t know what happened to Kiesha. But we know how she died – at the hands of the same woman who bit her so savagely when she was a toddler.
And this is what I think.
I think when you do something like that to your child, you forfeit your rights to be a parent. Forever. I think there is too much emphasis placed on the rights of the parents and not enough on the rights of children to grow up in secure, loving, homes free of violence and abuse.
I believe the government agencies responsible for looking into cases of suspected abuse or neglect are woefully underfunded and not given nearly the support or respect in the community that they require.
But from a philosophical point of view, I worry enormously about the emphasis placed on biology when it comes to decisions made by authorities about where at-risk children should live.
Just because you are biologically capable of being a parent, doesn’t mean you are physically, mentally or emotionally capable. Raising a child is a privilege not a right. Biology is not a trump card.
In an ideal world, family and cultural connections are important but to become over-sensitive to that factor alone can be dangerous.
Because being safe and alive is infinitely more important. Who could argue that?
There are those who will insist that people can change. That just because someone abuses their child – sexually, physically, emotionally – that doesn’t mean they can’t stop or that they will necessarily abuse their other children.
I say bollocks to that. Perhaps people can change but there are some acts so heinous – like biting your baby in anger that you shouldn’t get another chance. You don’t deserve it. One strike like that and you should be out. Quite simply, you forfeit your right to be a parent.
Because maybe such a thing was a one-off, maybe it wasn’t. And the cost of us getting it wrong, the cost of giving a parent like Kirsti Anne Abrahams the benefit of the doubt is just too high. And make no mistake, there are many, many parents like Kristi Anne Abrahams.
Rest in peace, Kiesha.
I am so deeply, desperately sorry that as a community, we failed to protect you.