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Mother feeds sons, aged 5 and 9, cheesecake laced with sleeping pills then burns them alive.

“I will try my luck in my next life”

Warning: This post deals with suicide and may be distressing for some readers.

It was cold on the morning of May 31st 2012 in the Melbourne suburbs.

Anitha Mathew, 37 started the day like any other, bustling her two young sons off to school then setting about with her chores.

She had a new job, but it had been causing her stress and anxiety as she felt she was “grossly over-qualified” for the position – she was a trained software developer but had been working casually as a gaming tester.

Anita Mathew, her sons Philip and Mathew. Via Nine News.

On May 31st she had the day off. She had plans – plans she had been forming in her mind for a while.

Shortly after 2pm she went to Bunning’s and bought a 5 litre plastic jerry can. She then went to the Clayton Caltex Petrol Station and bought 5.7 litres of petrol.

The smell of the petrol would have permeated the air of her car as she continued her chores, reminding her of what was ahead.

Next stop was  a cake shop.  Her two sons, Philip and Mathew, aged 5 and 9 loved cheesecake and it was to be afternoon tea. At 3.01pm she carefully placed the cheesecake in her car headed towards her boys to give them their treat.

A terrible tragic treat all a part of her carefully laid out plan.

At 3.30pm she went to her sons’ primary school and collected them for the day.

cheesecake
A terrible tragic treat all a part of her carefully laid out plan. Image via IStock.

At home that afternoon was it just like an ordinary day?

Was their mother’s behaviour different? Did they have any inkling of what she was planning? Did the two young boys do their homework? Play computer games? Jostle with each other and rumble like two brothers tend to do? Was there laughter and declarations of love?

We may never know as sometime between 4pm and 7.40pm Anitha gave her sons the cheesecake, she had laced it with Stilnox – a powerful sleeping pill – and fed it to them with the intent on rendering them unconscious before she burnt them alive.

She sent an email greeting card to a family friend saying, “I will try my luck in the next life” she set it to be received on June the 2nd.

She then put a suicide note she wrote the day before in a gift bag and placed it on the roof of her car.

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“I don’t know how to write a will kit and I don’t know this writing is legal, but please take this seriously,” she wrote.

“Myself and 2 kids (Philip and Mathew) are not planning to live anymore. Most of my friends know the reason. If in case any of my kids survive, please authorities make sure that my ornaments which was given to me by my parents which is in Westpac Melbourne branch locker should be given to whoever survive. Thanks.”

At 12.40 she set it alight and murdered both her two children and took her own life in the process. Via Nine News.

Anitha Mathews then poured petrol around the bedroom of her children,  at 12.40 she set it alight and murdered both her two children and took her own life in the process.

A court has heard that Ms Mathew wanted revenge over an unhappy marriage after continued disagreements with her husband.

Ms Mathew and Mr Philip were part of an arranged marriage in their native India and were experiencing difficulties in their relationship while in Australia.

The inquest heard that the couple had stopped speaking after a fight about her cooking and that on May 10, 2012 Mr Phillip gave his eldest son $500 and left for overseas without telling his wife about the trip.

He had previously told her family he did not want to live with her and that she could return to India.

Police reports show that Mr Philip was unhappy about a number of things in their arranged marriage — but in particular he was angry about her cooking.

The inquest heard that the couple had stopped speaking after a fight about her cooking. Via Nine News.

“Sometimes Anitha would cook me a meal which I could not eat because it was too spicy, or too cold, or I did not like it,” he told police.

In a finding handed down last week Coroner Ian Gray found there was no medical or psychological condition that could explain her actions.

“Ms Mathew’s killing of her two young sons is, on the available evidence, impossible to understand,” Judge Gray said.

“At the same time it is difficult to resist the conclusion that she was also punishing her husband, that there was vengeance in the filicides.”

He found that her husband’s behaviour – including refusing to speak to her –  was controlling within the meaning of the Family Violence Act.

But Judge Gray said that Ms Mathew “absolutely did not have the right to take the lives of her sons”.

“The tragic irony is … Ms Mathew has committed the ultimate family violence in this case,” he said.

Judge Gray found Mr Philip had a “controlling disposition” over his wife, and that Ms Mathew was socially isolated, frustrated at not working given her high education and feared the stigma of being divorced.

Sadly the court heard that Ms Mathews had warned family and friends many times that she was thinking of killing her children, in a phone call with a cousin in Canada she had threatened to kill her husband, and later her family.

“If nothing happens, I am going to kill him. I am going to die. I’m going to kill everybody,” she said.

The Judge said in his findings that there needs to be more understanding about the meaning and purpose of family violence laws and the escalating threats from Ms Mathews about harming herself and her family should have been brought to the attention of her family or the police.

For help: Lifeline 13 11 14

DV and Sexual Abuse hotline 27/4: 1800 737 732

Beyondblue 1300 224 636

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800