Mum breaks silence after six-year-old Charlie's death in Adelaide

·News Reporter
·4-min read

The mother accused of neglect after her six-year-old daughter Charlie died in their squalid Adelaide home last Friday has spoken of her heartbreak for the first time since her daughter's death.

The young girl was found unresponsive at her family's home in Munno Para, in the city's northern suburbs, and was confirmed dead at Lyell McEwin Hospital shortly after.

A criminal investigation task force was formed to investigate the circumstances surrounding her death, which included allegations of child neglect.

“The death is being investigated as a case of criminal neglect causing death,” SA Police Deputy Commissioner Linda Williams said in a press conference on Tuesday.

Crystal Nowland in pink jumper and and daughter Charlie wearing black top and hat
Crystal Nowland found her daughter unresponsive at their Adelaide home last week. Source: Russell Millard/The Advertiser

Charlie's mum speaks: 'I’m not a perfect mum'

Speaking to The Adelaide Advertiser on Thursday, mum Crystal Nowland said she's "not the mum they’ve made me out to be".

"I’m not a perfect mum and I might do things arse to front, back to front, but I fed them all the time," she said.

Every Thursday on payday she said she'd stock up on groceries for her children, including Charlie and her five siblings.

A close friend Megan Cox said the house was like a supermarket and the kids never went without food.

Investigators looking through the Munno Para home. Source: Seven News
Investigators have been looking into the family's living conditions. Source: Seven News

Charlie's condition revealed

It's since been revealed that Charlie suffered from Coeliac disease, an autoimmune disorder triggered by gluten which affects the small intestine.

Her mum claims she was unaware of her daughter's condition and only learned of it after her death.

Charlie also suffered a hereditary heart disease that affected blood flow to the organ, the coroner reportedly told Ms Nowland on Monday.

She was reportedly told nothing could have been done to save her daughter who allegedly "just stopped breathing".

Due to the home's apparent state of neglect, the public drew comparisons between Charlie's death and the Parafield Gardens “House of Horrors” case in 2008 for which three adults were jailed over the abuse of multiple kids.

But Police Commissioner Grant Stephens said investigators "don't forecast an outcome of any particular type from the investigation".

"I would hate to see people being vilified or criticised in the absence of all the information that might be available," he told the ABC on Friday.

Pictures of six-year-old Charlie who died at Munno Para. Source: ABC
Charlie was suspected to have suffered from malnutrition. Source: ABC

Authorities to blame, friends claim

Neighbours and friends of the family have defended Ms Nowland with one claiming, "it wasn’t her (Charlie’s mother), it was the state that failed", The Advertiser reported.

At least four government agencies had contact with the family, including Child Protection and the Education Department, the ABC reported.

But those close to the family claim they "did nothing to support her in the ways she needed help", particularly after her partner was jailed for stabbing her in the neck in January last year.

The attack, which reportedly played out in front of Charlie, left the mum of six unable to walk and suffering from seizures.

She allegedly requested single-parenting courses, along with other help, but she failed to receive it.

The Child Protection Department attended the family home just days before Charlie's death, it's been reported.

Ms Nowland said they were talking to Charlie and didn't raise concerns.

"If I was such a bad mum why didn’t they do anything?" she questioned.

SA Police Commissioner Grant Stephens
Police Commissioner Grant Stephens said investigators "don't forecast an outcome of any particular type from the investigation". Source: ABC

Acting Premier Susan Close called on these agencies —including housing and human services — to reveal whatever details they had on the family.

"There has been multiple eyes on this family and I am frustrated and concerned given then, how is it that this child has died," she told ABC radio.

Mum's cry for help: 'She was stone cold'

Ms Nowland said her daughter was "so headstrong" and she now feels "lost" after losing Charlie.

"I miss her so much," she said remembering her daughter's "cheeky smile".

Upon realising her daughter wasn't breathing, Ms Nowland said she tried to perform CPR with help from a neighbour.

"She was on the floor in a nappy, and she was paper white ... and when I touched her, she was stone cold, and her eyes were open and fixated on the ceiling," the neighbour told Daily Mail Australia.

"We did everything to try and get Charlie to breathe."

Paramedics arrived soon after and reportedly worked on Charlie for half an hour, but the six-year-old was pronounced dead at the hospital.

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