Wednesday's news in 5 minutes.

1. Mother who was ‘too terrified’ to seek medical treatment as her infant lay dying avoids jail time.

When Michelle Leask noticed her bruised baby girl having trouble breathing and unable to make eye contact she wanted to take her for medical treatment.

But the then 21-year-old mother was terrified into inaction, fearful of the possible violent reaction from her abusive partner, who was more concerned about concealing his small cannabis plantation than his ailing daughter’s welfare, AAP reports.

Their baby, Lili Cataldo, died in hospital on May 8, 2012, and on Tuesday Leask was sentenced to five years in jail after pleading guilty to manslaughter in the Brisbane Supreme Court.

But she has walked from court, with Justice Martin Burns wholly suspending the jail term, due to Leask’s vulnerability and substantial impairment stemming from the abuse inflicted by her partner and Lili’s father, Rick Cataldo.

On the evening seven-week-old Lili died, Leask found the pale, unresponsive and limp baby lying on a bed behind her sleeping father. She then yelled at Cataldo.

“You told him your child was not breathing,” Justice Burns said.

“You wished to call an ambulance but again you were prevailed on by Cataldo not to do so because he was worried that a number of cannabis plants in his possession would be discovered.”

Leask took her blue child to Redcliffe Hospital and staff tried CPR for about half an hour but couldn’t save Lili.

The court heard Cataldo had inflicted the fatal head injuries on his baby in one savage attack between seven and 10 days before she died.


“At no time until well after the child had died were you aware that she had been assaulted or for that matter aware of the extent of the very serious injuries that had been inflicted on her,” Justice Burns said.

Lili was left with a fractured skull, brain injuries and bruises but would have likely survived if she had been taken to hospital after being bashed.

Had she lived, she probably would have suffered brain damage, Justice Burns said.

“At all relevant times… you were an especially vulnerable person and in fear of Cataldo,” Justice Burns told Leask.

“You were operating with substantially impaired judgment.”

Since Lili’s death, Leask has turned her life around and is studying science at university and has been in a relationship for two years, the court heard.

Cataldo, who had also pleaded guilty to manslaughter, is due to be sentenced after reports are obtained from a forensic psychiatrist.

2. Cranbrook student accused of sexually assaulting teen girl was ‘tagged on her Facebook page’ before his arrest.

A 15-year-old private school student who is accused of raping an unconscious 15-year-old girl and filing the attack was reportedly tagged on her Facebook profile just two days before his arrest.

According to The Daily Telegraph, on the day the allegations against the former Cranbrook student were first reported, another student tagged the accused rapist on the victim’s personal Facebook profile.


The tag asked the accused if the girl’s profile belonged to “the one he had been talking about”.

The boy was due in Bidura Children’s Court in Glebe yesterday, but has been excused from appearing in court because he now lives interstate.

“His parents are overseas for work and unable to transport him or accommodate him in Sydney,” Legal Aid solicitor Aaron Tang told the court.

The accused has been charged with aggravated sexual assault after police believe he had sexual relations with a girl at a Bellevue Hill party on March 4.

It was reported the girl did not know she had been sexually assaulted until she was alerted via a text message the next day.

3. 11 children under the age of eight among 58 people killed in ‘gas attack’ in Syria.

A suspected gas attack, believed to be by Syrian government jets, has killed at least 58 people including 11 children under the age of eight in the northwestern province of Idlib, a war monitor and medical workers in the rebel-held area said.

A Syrian military source strongly denied the army had used any such weapons, AAP reports.

The attack caused many people to choke or faint, and some had foam coming out of their mouths, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, citing medical sources who described it as a sign of a gas attack.

The air strikes on the town of Khan Sheikhoun, in the south of rebel-held Idlib, also wounded more than 60 people, said the Observatory, a British-based war monitoring group.


“This morning, at 6.30 am, warplanes targeted Khan Sheikhoun with gases, believed to be sarin and chlorine,” said Mounzer Khalil, head of Idlib’s health authority, adding that the attack had killed more than 50 people and wounded 300.

“Most of the hospitals in Idlib province are now overflowing with wounded people,” he told a news conference in Idlib.

It would mark the deadliest chemical attack in Syria since sarin gas killed hundreds of civilians in Ghouta near Damascus in August 2013. Western states said the Syrian government was responsible for that attack. Damascus blamed it on rebels.

Activists in northern Syria circulated pictures on social media showing a purported victim with foam around his mouth, and rescue workers hosing down almost naked children squirming on the floor.

The Russian Defence Ministry said on Tuesday that Russian planes had not carried out air strikes on Idlib.

4. Customs officers surprised by reptiles and snakes smuggled into shoeboxes.

A box marked ‘2 pair shoes’ has contained a scaly surprise for border and biosecurity officers.

Officers in Melbourne X-rayed a parcel from northern Europe on March 14, discovering live reptiles and arachnids inside, AAP reports.

They included six venomous vipers and two of what is believed to be the world’s third-largest tarantula.

Smuggled with the parcel were three ball pythons (also known as royal pythons), two hognose snakes, six vipers, two Colombian giant tarantulas, five Mexican redone tarantulas, two Brazilian salmon pink tarantulas and four Asian forest scorpions.


The Agriculture Department’s deputy secretary Lyn O’Connell says it appeared to be a clear attempt to get around the rules which are in place to protect Australians.

“No spider is a match for our biosecurity web, we get our tails up when there are scorpions in the mail and if you try send exotic snakes — beware if we find intentional non-compliance, we bite back with the full force of the law,” she said in a statement on Tuesday.

The package is being investigated.

5. Mother and child killed in highway smash as another fights for life.

A woman and child have been killed in a crash on the Princes Highway on the state’s south coast, while another child is fighting for life.

Police say a car with three occupants collided with a semi-trailer north of Berry about 11.45am on Tuesday, AAP reports.

The female driver and a child died at the scene, police said.

A girl in the vehicle, aged in her early teens, had to be freed from the vehicle and has been airlifted to Sydney’s Prince of Wales Hospital in a critical condition, a NSW Ambulance spokesman said.

It’s believed the three occupants of the car are related.

The truck driver was not injured in the accident. Police have established a crime scene and investigations are underway.


6. Former Sydney lifeguard charged with sexually assaulting ‘nippers’ in the 1980s.

A Sydney lifeguard sexually assaulted three nippers at an eastern suburbs surf life saving club and at a nearby Catholic church in the 1980s, a jury has been told.

During his opening address in the man’s trial in the NSW District Court on Tuesday, Crown prosecutor Rohan Cooley said he also expected the jury to hear evidence that the man further assaulted another two boys on the grounds of the church between 1982 and 1986, AAP reports.

The youngest alleged victim was aged between seven and 10 at the time of the offences, while the oldest was between 12 and 13 years old, Mr Cooley said in the NSW District Court on Tuesday.

He said he expected the jury to hear evidence that the man, now 49, raped one of the boys on church grounds, and incited the same boy and his younger cousin to perform oral sex on each other.

On another occasion, the accused fondled a nipper’s genitals in a room at the surf life saving club where he was a lifeguard while a St John ambulance officer watched, Mr Cooley said.

He is also accused of giving and receiving oral sex, and masturbating in front of at least one boy.

The man has pleaded not guilty to 35 charges, including inciting an indecent act, committing an act of indecency on or towards a male under 16, and homosexual intercourse with a male between 10 and 18.

Do you have a story to share with Mamamia? Email us [email protected]

00:00 / ???