Huge response in wake of tragic father and son murder-suicide

Rowan, two, has been described as a 'delightful little boy' who 'loved the beach, music and swimming'.

Left, Dr Sophie Roome holding her son Rowan. Right, her former partner, James Harrison, who killed their son and then himself in an apparent murder-suicide on Sunday.
The bodies of James Harrison (right) and his son Rowan (left with his mother Dr Sophie Roome) were found in a home in Lismore on Sunday night after an apparent murder-suicide. Source: NCA NewsWire

Heartbroken loved ones are rallying around the mother of a two-year-old boy who was killed by his father in a murder-suicide on Sunday. The bodies of James Harrison and his son, Rowan, were found by police at a home in East Lismore, NSW, just before 10pm after his former partner, Dr Sophie Roome, raised the alarm.

Harrison had a planned visit with the toddler while Dr Roome worked a shift at the hospital, but when he failed to hand the boy back over as scheduled that afternoon, she asked officers to conduct a welfare check. The grisly scene was discovered hours later after police forced their way into the property, leaving Rowan’s family and the community “devastated”.

“Rowan was a delightful little boy, full of joy and love for his family and friends. He loved the beach, music and swimming,” Belinda Olding said on a GoFundMe created for Dr Roome, with her permission. “No child should be killed by those who are meant to love and protect them.”

In less than 24 hours, the fundraiser has raised more than $42,000 — far exceeding its $5,000 goal.

“This is a fund set up for Sophie to use in any way she sees fit,” Belinda said. “It may be for a memorial, donation to a charity, personal use or to assist in trying to affect change to the horror that is domestic violence.”

It was reported earlier this week that Dr Roome, an intensive care specialist, first sought an apprehended violence order against Harrison in August 2023, shortly after the couple parted ways. An AVO is a court order issued to protect an individual who has a reasonable fear of violence or harassment from a specified person.

In March, the AVO was reportedly extended by the court, banning Harrison from assaulting, stalking or intimidating Dr Roome.

Dr Sophie Roome with her son Rowan.
Rowan's death has left his mum Dr Sophie Roome, her family, loved ones and the Lismore community devastated. Source: GoFundMe

Friends of the family have posted tributes to Rowan online, describing the toddler as a “shining star”, and a “happy, bright, affectionate little boy”.

“Our hearts are completely broken at the loss of beautiful, gorgeous Rowan. He was a wonderful friend to my daughter,” one woman wrote on Facebook. “Sophie, how wonderful mother, adored him and worked so hard to make sure his life was full of joy”.

Another woman who identified herself as a colleague of Dr Roome said “no mother should ever have to receive this phone call”.

On Wednesday afternoon, Dr Roome and her family issued a statement, stating the family was “facing incomprehensible grief” in the wake of Rowan’s death.

“Our beloved Rowan was taken from us in the most unfathomable way,” the statement read. “Rowan’s life was ended by an evil and cowardly act of violence, perpetrated by a person he should have been able to trust the most.

“There are no possible excuses for this hurt, and no end to the pain it has caused.”

The statement also described the toddler as a “beautiful, joyful, and adored little boy,” and a child who loved “music, the beach, swimming, his friends and his family”. “We are devastated. We will love and miss Rowan forever. We thank all those who have provided support, and we acknowledge the suffering of James’ family, which is also immense.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual abuse or family violence contact:

  • National Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence Counselling Service 24-hour helpline 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732

  • 24-hour Emergency Accommodation helpline on 1800 800 588

  • Safe At Home helpline on 1800 633 937

  • Lifeline on 13 11 14

  • Men who have anger, relationship or parenting issues, should contact the Men's Referral Service on 1300 766 491 or the Don’t Become That Man helpline on 1300 243 413

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