Just two weeks ago, Charlie – dressed in a baby-pink tracksuit and broad-brimmed hat – posed for a photo at her family home hunched over with her eyes closed.
It was the last picture of the six-year-old ever taken before the little girl was found unresponsive at her family’s housing commission home in Munno Para, in Adelaide’s northern suburbs, in the early hours of Friday morning.
Her tragic death – which has been officially recorded as malnutrition – sparked a major crimes investigation by police and has led her five siblings to be taken into the care of the state as their mother is investigated for criminal neglect.
Now, sources have told The Advertiser that Charlie had been diagnosed with coeliac disease, a serious immune disorder in which the digestive system reacts to gluten.
Pictured: The last known photo of Charlie taken two weeks ago
The reaction causes damage to the small intestine which can prevent the absorption of some nutrients, leading to deficiencies.
Neighbours say Charlie’s mother is ‘distraught’ over her youngest child’s death.
‘She watched her child die … any mother who has gone through that would be traumatised and scared and confused and just heartbroken that her child, her baby that she carried for nine months is gone,’ one said on Wednesday.
It comes after Tuesday’s revelations that authorities allowed Charlie to stay at the home despite being exposed to drug abuse and domestic violence.
Court documents show the family was already known to at least three government agencies – including the Department of Child Protection.
In January last year, Charlie and her siblings watched their ‘drug-fuelled’ father stab their mother multiple times – including to the neck – at their home.
But despite the children witnessing the horrifying attack – and their father’s history of domestic violence and drug use – authorities did not remove them.
Neighbours say Charlie’s mother (pictured) is ‘distraught’ over her daughter’s death
Charlie (pictured) was raced to Lyell McEwin Hospital in the early hours of Friday morning in Adelaide’s north
Neighbours claim they contacted the department eight times over a three-week period in the lead up to Charlie’s death, with the agency reportedly having more than 500 case notes in relation to the little girl.
They believe the department was responsible for Charlie’s death for not taking any action.
‘It wasn’t her (Charlie’s mother), it was the state that failed,’ one said.
‘We’re not blaming her for what happened to Charlie … she needed help and DCP (Department for Child Protection) did nothing to support her in the ways she needed help.’
Outside the home on Tuesday, Charlie’s aunt – wearing a pink hoodie with a slogan that read ‘but did you die? #mumlife’ – lashed out at media when asked how the six-year-old’s mother was feeling.
Charlie (pictured) died on the floor of her mother’s house in an alleged case of criminal neglect
Charlie’s aunt arrived that afternoon, wearing a pink hoodie with a slogan that read: ‘But did you die? #mumlife (pictured, left)
‘How do you think she’s feeling? Her daughter just died in her arms! Of course she’s upset.’
One neighbour, Bec, told Daily Mail Australia the girl’s mum had raised the alarm late at night – leading her to do everything she could to try and save Charlie’s life.
‘It was about 1am and we were about to go to sleep, and we heard this banging on the door. Charlie’s mum was screaming ‘Charlie isn’t breathing!’ so we raced over there.
‘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.
‘We did everything to try and get Charlie to breathe.’
Paramedics arrived soon after and worked on Charlie for half an hour, but the six-year-old was pronounced dead at the hospital.
When asked about the cause of death, Bec said she didn’t know whether she choked to death or whether there were health issues going on that no one knew about.
However, she noted that no one saw Charlie for the last few weeks of her life because she was suffering a mystery illness.
The house Charlie died in was surrounded by junk – old toys, a tent, bikes and a disused freezer
The cause of death is still unknown, but a neighbour said Charlie had something in her throat when she died (family home, pictured)
She also said the girl and her siblings never looked healthy. They often had head lice, which Bec tried her best to help with.
‘After a while, she came over less and less and then she wasn’t allowed to come over and play with my two-year-old daughter, and she wasn’t allowed to leave the house,’ Bec said.
Bec remembered Charlie as a ‘beautiful’ girl who was shy, but always smiling happy, and carried around a pink teddy bear.
Eighteen months ago, police were also called to the home after Charlie’s father attacked her mother, his partner of 18-years, during a fight while he was under the influence of methylamphetamine.
During a sentencing hearing in February, the court heard he had been a habitual user of the drug for many years and, after quitting for a while, relapsed on the night of the attack.
The fight started in the bedroom before moving to the front yard, where the mother was stabbed three times.
‘It (the attack) occurred in front of the house and was witnessed by at least one civilian, who had to pull the defendant away from the victim not once, but twice,’ a prosecutor told the District Court.
Pictured: The front of the house Charlie died in, which has a single swing out the front
Debris, including an old mattress, bedding, and unused rabbit hutch, were seen scattered around the yard of the home on Tuesday
‘Had he not been pulled away there can be no doubt far more serious consequences could have flowed.’
The prosecutor told the court the mother wished to return to her partner despite the stabbing.
‘I think it would be fair to say the victim is probably lacking in insight into the preservation of her own safety,’ the prosecutor said.
‘I can tell you that the Department of Child Protection has an interest in this matter and certainly should the defendant return to that home, I would anticipate the department would get involved again.’
The father was initially charged with attempted murder before pleaded guilty to the downgraded offence of causing harm with intent.
He was sentenced in March this year to five years and six months in jail with a non-parole period of three years and six months.
Investigators will now probe what other interactions they had with the family in the years leading up to Charlie’s death.
SA Deputy Police Commissioner Linda Williams said the six-year-old’s living conditions were ‘poor’ and said it was too early to determine if her death could have been prevented.
The grass was overgrown and the yard littered with kids toys and miscellaneous items
She could not confirm the last time Charlie had been seen or even attended school.
A special taskforce has been formed to investigate her death and the circumstances behind it.
Task Force Prime will investigate possible criminal neglect charges relating to her five siblings living in the same house.
Acting Premier Susan Close said a government review would investigate the interactions between Charlie’s family and the state’s human services, child protection, education and housing agencies.
The chief executive of the Department of Premier and Cabinet will determine which services were engaged, how they collaborated, how effective they were, and what changes might be required.
Child Protection Minister Katrine Hildyard said these were ‘absolutely tragic and heart breaking circumstances’ and offered her sympathies to Charlie’s family.
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