Police have been urged to back their instincts after an evil father laced his children’s juice with sedatives and murdered them during the three hours it took for officers to respond to their mother’s plea for help.
The bodies of five-year-old Zaraiyah-Lily Headland and three-year-old Andreas Headland were found on a bed at their father’s Yanchep home in Perth on October 20, 2016.
The father, Jason Craig Headland, who was found at the home with self-inflicted injuries, pleaded guilty to their murders and was sentenced to life in prison, with a minimum of 31 years to be served.
Inquests into the deaths heard Headland committed the brutal murders to inflict pain on his wife Anatoria Takiwa, who had told him she wanted a divorce.
Coroner Sarah Linton said the inquests were ‘two of the worst I have dealt with,’ The West Australian reported.
Five-year-old Zaraiyah-Lily Headland and three-year-old Andreas Headland (pictured with their mother Anatoria Takiwa) were found dead on a bed inside a Yanchep home in October 2016
In her findings, she urged police to ‘trust their instinct more’ after the inquest was told a police recruit had a ‘weird feeling’ when the children’s mother went to Joondalup police.
Ms Takiwa and her friend Katie Cheeseman spoke to the recruit at the station after the mother received a distressing phone call from Headland.
‘I’m going to hurt you … I’m going to break your heart into 50 million pieces. Say goodbye to your kids. This is the last time you’re going to speak to them,’ Headland said.
A police car wasn’t dispatched for a welfare check until more than three hours later, with the children being found dead by officers on arrival.
Their father, Jason Craig Headland (pictured with Ms Takiwa), pleaded guilty to their murders and was sentenced to life in prison
The coroner said in her findings the outcome may have been different if the young officer had backed her initial feeling.
‘I can’t help wondering whether things might have been different if [the recruit] in particular, as she had the strongest instinctive sense of concern, had been allowed to rely more on her gut instinct… I am not suggesting that the deaths would definitely have been averted, as it is clear Jason had formulated a plan from at least early afternoon, and was intent on putting that plan into effect,’ Coroner Linton said.
‘In the end, I am left with a feeling of disquiet, as the police recruit who took the initial report had a very strong, instinctive feeling that something was amiss, and it was through the advice of her superiors, and following police procedures, that she was directed to take a less direct path to checking on the children’s welfare.’
Zaraiyah-Lily Headland and Andreas Headland were drugged, strangled and murdered by their father
After Ms Takiwa and Ms Cheeseman had been at the police station for about half-an-hour, the recruit spoke to Headland on the phone and he said he would bring the children there, so the women left.
When Headland failed to arrive, the recruit unsuccessfully tried to call him, then called Ms Takiwa and was told Headland might be at the marital home in Yanchep.
The recruit created a job in the police system and gave it a priority three, which meant police were required to respond within one hour.
Officers visited the home about 10.17pm, which was just under one hour, but three- and-a-half hours since Ms Takiwa went to police with her concerns.
A coroner has urged officers to trust their gut after it was revealed that a police recruit had a weird feeling about the incident when it was reported. Pictured: officers attend the Yanchep home following the murders
In that time Headland had drugged, strangled and killed his children before attempting to take his own life.
During the inquest last October, Senior Constable Christine Barnes became emotional as she read a statement on behalf of her colleagues.
‘We’d like to extend our sincerest condolences for the tragic loss of your beautiful children,’ the officer said on Wednesday.
‘We joined police to save lives and make a difference. On the rare occasion, we are unable to do that.
‘We too carry that burden every day. Please accept our deepest sympathy for your loss.’