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News in 5: Man's sickening excuse for child sex abuse; Man missing off NSW coast; US actress Penny Marshall dies.

-With AAP.

1. Man convicted of sexual assault against his three-year-old daughter gives sickening excuse.


It took a jury less than 30 minutes to convict an American man of incest and sexual assault charges for crimes against his three-year-old daughter.

Henry Vincent Bennett, 26, was arrested last February after his daughter made disturbing statements to relatives and child advocacy workers that she had been sexually abused.

In one statement, the child said that Bennett had placed his “butt on her butt.” She made a Play-Doh model of a penis and said it was Bennett’s “butt,” the Bluefield Daily Telegraph reported child advocacy worker Cindy Lambert as testifying last week.

Bennett originally denied the assaults but then bizarrely claimed the two nighttime incidents were accidental.

henry bennett
Image: West Virginia regional jail authority.

In one instance, Bennett said he "accidentally" placed a sex toy in his daughter's buttocks.

He said the other occasion, involving oral sex, happened by accident after the child crawled into the bed while his wife was away in the bathroom. He claimed he was laying on his back and did not notice that it was no longer his wife.

Bennett could now face a jail term of 80 to 270 years. He will be sentenced in March.

His wife April, 24, was arrested earlier this year and charged with child neglect.

She will be sentenced his month and could spend up to five years in prison.

If this post brings up any issues for you, you can contact Bravehearts (an organisation providing support to victims of child abuse) here.

If you are concerned about the welfare of a child you can get advice from the Child Abuse Protection Hotline by calling 1800 688 009, or visiting their website. You can also call the 24- hour Child Abuse Report Line (131 478).

2. Family support mum accused over Surfers Paradise baby death.

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The family of a woman whose baby girl drowned after being tossed into the Tweed River will arrive on Wednesday in northern NSW, where she has been released on bail.

The woman, who cannot be identified, will plead not guilty to the charge of recklessly failing to provide her daughter with the necessities of life.

She faced Tweed Local Court by video link on Tuesday, was granted bail and released to the care of a supervised mental health facility in northern NSW.

Lawyer Tom Ivey told the court the family was "very supportive" and would be there to settle the woman into the facility, where she will undergo treatment.

Court documents obtained by AAP reveal the 23-year-old has a history of mental illness.

The documents refer to diary entries made by the mother where she wrote that her daughter was the "devil".

One entry calls for her partner to be released.

"Free that black man from his chains for he is innocent I do say. For he did slay the one you call the devil," she wrote.

The baby's father, a homeless 47-year-old, was charged on November 22 with murdering his daughter, whose body was found on the beach by passers-by three days earlier.

It was alleged the infant was thrown into the water at Tweed Heads in NSW, where she drowned, before her body drifted north for about 30km.

The couple's second child, a two-year-old boy, remains in foster care.

The woman will reappear in Tweed Local Court on February 25.

3. Man remains missing in surf off NSW coast.

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A Sydney family is mourning after two men drowned at a "treacherous" NSW beach, while a search for a third man swept out by the current is expected to be called off.

The search for the 28-year-old man resumed on Tuesday morning after two men - aged 35 and 45 - drowned off Moonee Beach north of Coffs Harbour on Monday evening.

At the same time two girls, aged 15 and 17, and a 15-year-old boy were rescued and taken to hospital for observation.

They were all from the same family in western Sydney, NSW Police said.

An initial search for the missing man was called off late on Monday due to fading light and deteriorating surf conditions.

Emergency services were pictured helping the surviving family members from the beach as they collapse, grief-stricken, in each others' arms.

A family friend said the group had just arrived in the sleepy holiday town for a "good time together".

"It's too much to bear," he told Seven Network on Tuesday as the search continued.

But emergency services are expected to call off the search again as light begins to fade on Tuesday evening.

The 28-year-old man's family at home in India are reportedly in shock.

Police praised the "outrageously brave" locals involved in the initial search with one lifesaver swimming 700 metres to rescue one of the teenagers.

"It absolutely brave, they've put themselves at risk," Inspector Brendan Gorman told ABC News.

"In those conditions and at that time I don't know how else you describe it other than it's outrageously brave."

Surf Life Saving NSW North Coast duty officer Les Pepper said the search had moved to the back beach of the unpatrolled Moonee Beach.

"It is a treacherous stretch of beach, not safe at all," he told the ABC.

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"Some of the beaches are really nice, they look really nice, but are a bit treacherous.

"At Moonee, it is a river mouth, the creek comes out from there and the rip forms from there and takes you straight out, and people just don't understand what rips are."

Mr Pepper urged people to only swim at patrolled beaches with many now staffed seven days a week over Christmas.

Lifeguard Greg Hackfath broke down telling reporters about the tragic event.

"They're never easy," he said.

4. US actress, director Penny Marshall dies.

US actress Penny Marshall, who starred in the sitcom Laverne & Shirley before becoming one of the top-grossing female directors in Hollywood, has died aged 75.

Marshall's publicist Michelle Bega says she passed away in her Hollywood Hills home on Monday as the result of complications from diabetes.

Marshall starred alongside Cindy Williams in the hit ABC comedy Laverne & Shirley, which aired from 1976 to 1983.

As a filmmaker, she became the first woman to direct a movie that grossed more than US$100 million with Big, the 1988 comedy starring Tom Hanks.

She also directed A League Of Their Own, Jumpin' Jack Flash and Awakenings.

5. Dolphins keep long-lasting friends: Study.

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Dolphins have "long-lasting friendships" and form cliques while shunning other groups, researchers have observed.

An international team led by Scotland's University of St Andrews looked at the behaviour of bottlenose dolphins in the Gulf of Trieste in the northern Adriatic sea for more than 16 years.

The dolphin "social network" was split into mixed-sex clusters, including two main groups that enjoyed "stable membership and long-lasting friendships", they found.

Both groups contained "core membership" with extra tiers, while dolphins in one of the groups sometimes formed smaller factions within themselves.

They were connected by several dolphins which acted as "social brokers", preventing "complete cluster isolation", the researchers said.

A third smaller cluster, nicknamed "freelancers", shared much weaker bonds.

The rival groups tended to avoid each other but shared particular areas of water by using them at different times.

Tilen Genov, of St Andrews' Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU), said: "We were quite surprised by this.

"It is not uncommon for dolphins to segregate into different parts of the sea, but to have certain times of the day in which they gather is unusual.

"We would sometimes see one social group in the morning and then the group in the same area in the late afternoon."

The researchers also suggested that ecological constraints, such as the availability of prey, could explain the inclusion of older-looking dolphins.

The study, published in Marine Biology, said: "With lack of major prey-aggregating bottom features, spatio-temporal distribution of prey is likely highly variable, which may promote network connectedness.

"Clusters A and B both contained individuals which appeared 'older' based on their external appearance.

"These animals may possess long-term knowledge needed to tackle such constraints and thus play a key role in their community."

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