A mother died alongside four of her children in a fiery crash that police believe was ‘in retaliation’ to proceedings in the family court, an inquest has heard.
An eight-page note found in Charmaine McLeod’s handbag after the crash read ‘blame the courts, not enough help for domestic violence victims and kids’, which Detective Senior Constable Lisa O’Leary said was central to the theory.
Ms McLeod’s note also said she finally had the ‘courage to stand and report my abusive husband’, the inquest heard, however no allegation against her partner James McLeod has ever been proven.
A police officer also told the inquest that he believed Ms McLeod made up a claim that she was raped by her husband.
The mother, 35, and her children Aaleyn, 6, Matilda, 5, Wyatt, 4, and Zaidok, 2, were killed when her small SUV was involved in a head-on collision with a truck on May 27, 2019, on the Bunya Highway at Kingaroy, northwest of Brisbane.
The inquest into the crash and circumstances leading up to it began in the Brisbane Coroner’s Court on Wednesday.
Ms McLeod, 35, and her children (pictured) died when her Nissan SUV hit a truck head-on on a country Queensland road in May, 2019
Wyatt, Ally, Zaidok and Matilda (pictured l-r) lived like ‘princes and princesses’ before the crash a friend said
Barrister Emily Cooper, who is representing the Commissioner of Police, asked Sen Const O’Leary about the eight-page note.
‘You’ve made reference there to interpretation of information provided by the family law court as the causation for the traffic accident among other things,’ she asked.
‘For the sake of clarity page seven … (of Ms McLeod’s note) … it says, does it not ”blame the courts, not enough help for domestic violence victims and kids”.
‘Did that play a major role in your conclusion in your report as I’ve just read out?’
Det Const. O’Leary said that it had.
At the inquest on Friday, a police officer who investigated Ms McLeod’s claims that her former partner James McLeod had raped her said he believed that one of the allegations was ‘completely fabricated’, the Brisbane Times reported.
The officer told the inquest that he had investigated four rape allegations made by Ms McLeod against James, who claimed during a police interview that two of the incidents were consensual and two never happened.
James McLeod has not been charged with any offence.
The inquest also heard police did not pursue an allegation of sexual abuse against Mr McLeod.
On the second day of the inquest in Brisbane on Thursday, testimonies from two of Ms McLeod’s friends and a childcare worker were heard.
One friend said they overheard a female police officer tell Ms McLeod that an investigation would not continue into an allegation that her daughter Matilda had been sexually assaulted by Mr McLeod as officers had concluded that the child had been ‘coached’ on what to say.
Mr McLeod’s barrister, Amelia Hughes, on Wednesday challenged claims by another witness that she saw Mr McLeod ask Matilda to perform a sexual act.
Ms Hughes suggested to the witness that she made up the incident because she did not like Mr McLeod, which the witness denied.
Emergency workers described the crash as ‘catastrophic’ and one of the worst scenes they had been to
Another witness on Thursday said Ms McLeod had told her that police would not investigate Matilda’s claims as they thought she had coached her daughter into making the allegation.
The witness also said Ms McLeod’s ‘involuntary smiling’ had damaged her credibility when talking to police.
The former childcare worker testified that Wyatt had twice demanded that other children engage in sexual behaviour and had approached her with a knife.
‘(Wyatt) said ”I’m going to cut you like a bad guy cut me”… and ”there’s a bad man at daddy’s”,’ the childcare worker said.
The worker discussed these incidents with Ms McLeod, who said she suspected Wyatt had been ‘inappropriately dealt with’ and had ‘copped the brunt of (Mr McLeod’s) bad moods’.
The worker said she had a policy not to automatically believe one parent over another and contacted child protective services, who advised her the matter was already under investigation.
Ms Hughes asked the worker if she discussed the claims with Mr McLeod and she said no because Ms McLeod had not supplied his contact information.
The worker admitted she attended the same school as Ms McLeod, that they had socialised, and she had never seen how Mr McLeod interacted with his children.
All three witnesses who testified on Thursday cannot be named for legal reasons.
Ms McLeod is pictured with her four children
Ms McLeod’s friends also testified about the impact that her mental illnesses, including schizophrenia, had on her life.
One friend said Ms McLeod hallucinated that there was a giraffe on the hood of her car while she was driving and once thought her house was surrounded by people yelling at her.
‘She heard voices telling her if she did not kill herself, they would kill someone close to her,’ the friend said.
Another friend said Ms McLeod would ‘tell one person one version of events and different version to another’ and decided she had ‘lied’ when claiming to have been raped by Mr McLeod.
The inquest continues.
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