Saturday 16 December 2017

Australian man who threw daughter to her death off Melbourne bridge convicted

Tributes lay near the bridge where four-year-old Darcey Freeman died
Tributes lay near the bridge where four-year-old Darcey Freeman died

Bonnie Malkin

An Australian man who threw his four-year-old daughter to her death off of a Melbourne bridge "as if he was posting a letter" murdered the child to avenge himself on his wife following a bitter custody battle, a jury has ruled.

In one of the most shocking crimes in Australia's recent history, Arthur Freeman pulled over his car on Melbourne's West Gate Bridge in the morning rush hour, picked his daughter Darcey up and pitched her over the railing.

His two sons, Ben, 6, and Jack, 2, were in the vehicle at the time.

Freeman, 37, was convicted of murdering the child on Monday, after a jury rejected defence claims that he was mentally unsound.

Witnesses, who watched in horror as Darcey dropped "like a rag doll" toward the Yarra River, 190 feet below, said Freeman appeared as calm as if he was "posting a letter".

Minutes earlier, he had told Peta Barnes, his ex-wife, over the phone: "Say goodbye to your children".

The couple, who divorced in 2008 after seven years of marriage, had been involved in a custody dispute.

In chilling testimony, Ben Freeman said he had asked his father to go back for Darcey on the morning of Jan 28 2009, reminding him that she couldn't swim.

"I said go back and get her," he said in a taped interview played to the jury. "And Dad keeps driving along. Then I said Darcey can't swim ... and then Dad would just keep on driving, didn't go back to get her."

Darcey was found shortly later by police, but died of serious injuries in hospital.

The crime shocked Australia, with dramatic live coverage showing paramedics trying to revive the girl on the banks of the river, and made headlines around the world.

A jury of seven women and five men found Freeman guilty of murder after five days of deliberations.

They had been asked decide whether Freeman was "mad or bad" when he committed the crime.

Defence lawyers claimed he was mentally impaired but the prosecution successfully argued he had planned the murder because he was bent on revenge and worried that he was about to lose custody of the children.

He will be sentenced next month.

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