The grandmother of a toddler who died of head injuries from a motorbike accident said she has reconnected with one of the people responsible for the tragic death, her own daughter.
Belinda Valentine lost her granddaughter Chloe, 4, after the girl was forced to ride a 50kg motorbike that repeatedly crashed over a three-day period in the backyard of her Adelaide home in January 2012.
The girl eventually succumbed to the injuries she sustained and died in her hospital bed, The Advertiser reported.
The girl’s drug-addicted mother Ashlee Polkinghorne, 27, and her violent, then-partner Benjamin Robert McPartland, 35, were jailed on manslaughter charges and given a non-parole term of over four years.
On Thursday, Polkinghorne was released on parole.
Belinda Valentine (pictured) lost her granddaughter Chloe, 4, after the girl was forced to ride a motorbike that repeatedly crashed over a three-day period in the backyard of her Adelaide home in January 2012
The girl eventually succumbed to the injuries she sustained and she died in her hospital bed
Polkinghorne is also the daughter of Ms Valentine, who said she directed nothing but ill-feelings towards her child for some time.
‘I tried to hate her for it,’ Ms Valentine said.
‘I wanted to. But it was actually making me really sick, all that hate and confusion and judgment.’
It wasn’t until the death of Polkinghorne’s grandmother that the mother and daughter started to speak, and started to heal.
‘When you’re in the midst of it, we thought “we’ll never repair this”,’ Ms Valentine said.
‘But we’ve had to recognise how deep our unconditional love for our children actually is and we’ve had to learn to separate Ashlee’s behaviour from who she is.’
Before Chloe died, Families SA received 20 abuse notifications from friends and family concerned about the girl’s filthy, transient and unsafe living conditions.
Coroner Mark Johns said Polkinghorne was often given the benefit of the doubt by social workers, who helped clean her house and avoided confronting her about her drug use.
Mr Johns described Polkinghorne as an ‘accomplished and manipulative liar’ who easily fooled her case workers.
‘Ashlee was given virtually limitless opportunities to address her problems,’ he said.
She was also provided with three supported accommodation sites and government-subsidised childcare.
The girl’s drug-addicted mother Ashlee Polkinghorne and her violent, then-partner Benjamin Robert McPartland were jailed on manslaughter charges and given a non-parole term of over four years
A coronial inquest into little Chloe’s death was launched and the law eventually reshaped to protect children and prevent similar ends
He said the agency made a ‘mistake’ when they declared it was unnecessary to drug test Polkinghorne, a known amphetamine user, and condemned the ‘rigid’ agency’s failure to consider Chloe’s grandmother as a potential guardian.
‘(Families SA) took the path of least resistance, and the whole history of its dealing with Ashlee is a history of drift, irresolution and aimlessness,’ he said.
In a scathing verdict, the coroner found social workers ‘flagrantly disregarded’ their legal responsibilities to seize children from neglectful parents.
Despite the difficult times following the death of little Chloe, Ms Valentine, her husband Steve Harvey and Polkinghorne’s brothers Chad, Scott and Jake slowly began to reconnect with Polkinghorne.
What began as letters being sent between the two camps, slowly evolved to visits to Adelaide Women’s Prison, where Polkinghorne was incarcerated.
Ms Valentine said for a long time her daughter hated herself and there would often be reports of an inmate bashing whenever news of the little girl’s death resurfaced in the media.
In a scathing verdict, the coroner found social workers ‘flagrantly disregarded’ their legal responsibilities to seize children from neglectful parents
‘She’s wanted to die, of course she has, thinking “no one’s ever going to forgive me, my life is over because I did this to this beautiful girl”,’ Ms Valentine said of her daughter.
She said Polkinghorne began counselling inside prison and that she would continue to attend sessions now she was a free woman.
Ms Valentine said the image of her granddaughter continued to haunt the young mother, who has been working hard to get on with life.
She said her daughter would be turning 28 in June and had chosen to start living an honourable life in memory of the little girl.
Polkinghorne’s family have already joined Child Protection programs to help families who are struggling with addiction.
Ms Valentine said that although she had accepted the turn of events back in 2012, she still felt herself get angry at times – but the anger did nothing to change the past.
Before Chloe died, Families SA received 20 abuse notifications from friends and family concerned about the girl’s filthy, transient and unsafe living conditions