Apology and pardons in WA baby death case

·3-min read

A grieving Aboriginal mother who was brutally assaulted by her former partner - who then kidnapped and murdered her baby boy - has finally received an apology and pardon from the West Australian government, almost a decade after "enduring the unthinkable".

Instead of being treated as a victim of domestic violence by police, Tamica Mullaley was arrested in March 2013 after a sustained beating at the hands of Mervyn Bell who left her naked and bleeding on a Broome street.

When police arrived at the scene, she was hostile to the officers. When her father Ted Mullaley arrived, the situation continued to escalate with the pair eventually detained, charged, prosecuted and convicted.

But WA Attorney-General John Quigley told parliament on Wednesday that Ms Mullaley's actions were unsurprising given the violence she had suffered.

"Tamica and Ted have endured the unthinkable," Mr Quigley said.

"In just two days Tamica had suffered a life-threatening assault and lost her baby in the most horrific circumstances."

After her arrest, Ms Mullaley's 10-month-old boy Charlie had been left in the care of family friends.

Bell returned to the area soon after and kidnapped the boy, murdering him the following day.

He was serving a minimum sentence of 27 years when he took his own life in 2015.

The police conduct in Ms Mullaley's case was criticised in a Corruption and Crime Commission review though it ruled there was no serious misconduct.

A coroner investigated the death but did not hold an inquest.

But Mr Quigley said both Ms Mullaley and her father, who were present in parliament's public gallery for the statement, had deserved much better.

"On behalf of the government of Western Australia, I am sorry for the way you were treated by the government and the WA police both before and after losing baby Charlie," he said.

"Ted and Tamica deserved compassion. Instead, the system we thought we could rely on to support victims of crime failed Tamica and Ted and they were dragged through the courts themselves."

Ms Mullaley later reiterated her belief police officers involved in the case had been racist towards her and her father.

She welcomed the government's apology.

"I think they heard the real truth of what happened nine years ago," she told reporters.

"Sorry means a lot. It might not mean a lot to them as ministers but as an Aboriginal family and just a family and a mother, it does mean heaps."

Family lawyer and National Justice Project principal solicitor George Newhouse said there would be ongoing actions to hold the police accountable.

"There's still more to come," he said.

"This is a great start for the family after nine years but there are still areas of the post-death investigation that the family are still extremely traumatised and upset about."

Mr Quigley said the decision to grant absolute and unconditional pardons to both Ms Mullaley and her father was a "most exceptional step".

"These pardons are a show of mercy which have been a long time coming," he said.

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