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Mum feared for children before daughter's bridge death

Mum feared for children before daughter's bridge death
SMH Source , October 8, 2009 - 4:47PM

A woman whose ex-husband is accused of throwing their four-year-old daughter from a bridge to her death feared he would kill their children.

Peta Barnes said in her police statement tendered in court she feared her ex-husband Arthur Phillip Freeman would kill their children to get back at her.
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Freeman, 36, was today committed to stand trial for murdering Darcey Freeman as he drove her to her first day at school.

He allegedly tossed her from Melbourne's West Gate Bridge on January 29 this year, moments after telling Ms Barnes to farewell her children, the Melbourne Magistrates Court was told.

"You will never see them again," Freeman allegedly told her on the phone.

In her statement, Ms Barnes said she expressed her concerns to a doctor soon after she first left her husband in 2007.
Mrs Barnes said
I spoke to him about my fears of Arthur and what he could do to hurt the children.

I told (the doctor) that I believed he would kill my children and that I believed he was vengeful enough to kill my children to get back at me.
Ms Barnes said in her statement there was an incident some time after she left Freeman when she feared he would harm their baby.

She said Freeman had wanted to see her to talk but he "just wanted to berate me for all of the things that I had done wrong".

Ms Barnes said as she and her mother went to leave, Freeman grabbed the baby off her.

Mrs Barnes said
I thought he was going to throw him against the fireplace and kill him.

Mum and I fought him and I bit him to get him to let the baby go because he is incredibly strong and he wouldn't let go.

She said the police were called
When Freeman was asked by Magistrate Peter Reardon if he would enter a plea to a charge of murder, he replied: "Not guilty, your honour."

Freeman was remanded in custody to appear at a directions hearing at the Victorian Supreme Court on October 22.

The Age article published in

Freeman 'very distressed' over custody ruling
October 9, 2009

Pic not shown
Arthur Freemans father, Peter Freeman, and mother, Norma, leaving Melbourne Magistrates Court.

ARTHUR Freeman was ''very distressed'' and felt he should have been more affirmative in fighting for custody of his children on the night of January 28 this year.

Freeman had been upset by a ruling in a custody hearing earlier that day, according to documents tendered to Melbourne Magistrates Court during Freeman's committal.

His father says Freeman felt he had to justify his right to be a parent and felt ''set up'' by a psychologist involved in the court proceedings.

Freeman returned to his parents' Aireys Inlet home and was disappointed with the outcome, according to his mother, Norma.

Her husband, Peter, said his son told him the passive approach had ''got him nowhere'' and he had lost everything.

''Arthur felt he was always trying to justify his right to be a parent against continual legal attack,'' he said.

The next day, supposed to be four-year-old Darcey Iris Freeman's first day at school, Freeman had been ''a little stressed''. On the way to school, he tipped his daughter over the side of the West Gate Bridge.

Mrs Freeman said: ''I was in no way concerned for the children's safety.''

Darcey died in hospital after falling 58 metres and suffering brain injuries from drowning.

Documents released from Melbourne Magistrates Court show Freeman's ex-wife, Peta Barnes, was concerned for the safety of her children - Ben, 6, Darcey and Jack, 1 - at his hands.

''I told Dr Teperman [GP] that I believed he would kill my children and that I believed he was vengeful enough to kill my children to get back at me,'' she said in her statement.

Ms Barnes, who was not at yesterday's hearing, said she was not happy with the previous custody arrangements but when she left court after the changes were made, her ex-husband ''appeared happy''.

Freeman, charged with Darcey's murder, was yesterday asked by magistrate Peter Reardon how he would plead. ''Not guilty, your honour,'' he quietly replied - the only words he spoke during the two-day committal hearing.

Freeman was expressionless as evidence was called against him.

During cross-examination, defence lawyer George Georgiou repeatedly asked witnesses about his client's mental wellbeing.

In his statement, Mr Freeman said he was concerned about his son's stress level and suggested the children miss a day of school and stay home.

''I then asked him if he wanted me to accompany them in the car and he said he didn't,'' Mr Freeman said.

Elizabeth Lam, a friend in Britain whom Freeman phoned before dropping his daughter off the bridge, said he was upset and crying because of the court result.

''He said that he would have to keep fighting through the courts to gain shared care. He said that everywhere he turned, there were angry women,'' Ms Lam said in her statement.

Freeman then had a call from his ex-wife, who was waiting at school for the children.

''Say goodbye to your children,'' Ms Barnes said she was told. ''I then became highly agitated, I can't remember how many times I rang him. One of these times he answered the phone and he said, 'Who is this?' I said, 'It's me.' He then said, 'You will never see them again,' and  hung up.''

Ms Barnes then reported the three children missing and went home to collect photos of them. ''My lawyer then rang me and told me the two boys were safe but the news was reporting that a little girl had been thrown from the West Gate Bridge. I dropped the phone ''

Freeman's sister, Megan Toet, told police she knew her brother was ''under a lot of pressure'' and wanted to spend time with his children because of the time the court case was taking up.

''But I just don't know why it happened,'' she said. ''As far as I know Arthur loved all his kids and he loved Darcey just like the others. If anything, he did more for Darcey  He was never violent towards them. He had a good relationship with them.''

Freeman's mother also could not understand why he did what he did. ''I wouldn't call him aggressive and I have no explanation as to why he would have done this.''

Responding to a call for police, Senior Constable Shaun Hill went to the Commonwealth Law Courts to see Freeman. Darcey's father had driven there after dropping her from the bridge. Senior Constable Hill said that after he asked Freeman what had happened, Freeman replied: ''Take me away.''

Freeman was remanded to appear in the Supreme Court in a fortnight.

Source: The Age

Source Herald Sun

Last hours of little Darcey Freeman

    * Paul Anderson
    * From: Herald Sun
    * October 10, 2009 12:00AM

IT was to be the first day of a wonderfully exciting new chapter in the life of a sweet four-year-old girl.

LITTLE Darcey Freeman's life was set to blossom the day she was thrown from the West Gate Bridge.

Excited about her first day of school at St Joseph's Primary in Hawthorn, she was up and dressed, and having breakfast with her older brother Ben, by the time her paternal grandmother, Norma Freeman, woke and came downstairs.

Darcey's younger brother, two-year-old Jack, was still asleep despite the heat.

It was January 29, a brilliant sunny morning at Aireys Inlet.

The children and their father, Arthur Phillip Freeman, had spent the night at his parents' holiday home.

The kids had spent the long weekend there, playing on their scooters and with an assortment of toys they had taken for the trip.

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Mr Freeman, an IT worker, had arrived the previous night.

In a police statement tendered to Melbourne Magistrates' Court this week, his father, Peter Freeman, said he seemed "very distressed" about custody arrangements.

Arthur Freeman and his wife, Peta Barnes, were divorced in June last year, the court heard.

Arthur had his breakfast before he and the two older children loaded their gear into his Toyota LandCruiser.

The kids got in, and Arthur buckled Jack into the baby capsule.

"I was concerned that Arthur was very stressed and I suggested that the children miss a day of school and stay home," Peter Freeman told police.

Norma Freeman said in her statement: "When they left (about 7.30am), Arthur was a bit short with me and a little stressed, but I was in no way concerned for the children's safety."

According to court documents, a crying Arthur Freeman rang friend Elizabeth Lam, in the UK, at 8.09am and told her that he had lost custody of his children.

"He was very upset," Ms Lam said in her police statement.

"I tried to reassure him that he had not lost his children, as he would have them every second weekend, but he was too upset to listen to me.

"He cried as he asked who would read them stories at night, as Peta never did this.

"He was also upset that Peta had taken the money out of the family account that came from the sale of their London property, and that the court decided that he was only entitled to $15,000.

"Arty was concerned that because of this he would not have any money to look after his children, let alone himself.

"From the way he was sounding on the phone, I was worried that Arty was going to kill himself. I just had a feeling, and I told him not to do anything stupid and that the children needed their father.

"He didn't respond and just cried."

On the other side of the West Gate Bridge, in Hawthorn, Peta Barnes was at St Joseph's Primary School waiting for her children to arrive.

She told police she called her ex-husband when they failed to arrive.

"He answered and I asked where Darce was," Ms Barnes said in her police statement. "He said to me, `Say goodbye to your children'."

According to her statement, Ms Barnes rang back and was told: "You will never see them again."

Ms Barnes phoned her solicitor, talked to the school principal and reported her children to police as missing, before going home to get photos of them.

SHIPPING manager Barry Nelson was driving across the West Gate Bridge about 9.15am, with his wife Michelle beside him, when the pair say they saw a man take a small child from a white 4WD.

"I thought he was taking his child out of the car for a pee," Mrs Nelson told police.

"In the next few seconds my husband said: `Oh my God, he's going to throw that child over the edge.'

"The child looked like it had that fright reaction because the child's body was tensed up."

Mr Nelson said: "It was like he was holding a bag and tipped it over.

"I couldn't believe what I had just seen."

Another motorist, Greg Cowan, said in his statement: "After dropping the child over, (the man) leaned over the edge for a couple of seconds with both hands on the railing to have a look, and then he turned around and casually walked back around the rear of his car.

"I couldn't believe what I thought I had seen and it made me feel sick.

"It was like he was just throwing out the trash."

Mr Nelson pulled over and ran to the rail.

"I yelled at him, `Hey, what are you doing?' He had no emotion on his face, like nothing had happened," he said.

"I started to tell myself it may have been a toy because I didn't want to believe it was a child that I had seen."

Prosecutor Gavin Silbert, SC, said Mr Freeman then drove away.

"While (they were) driving, Ben Freeman asked his father to go back to get Darcey because she could not swim," Mr Silbert told Melbourne Magistrates' Court this week.

Commonwealth Law Courts security staff said Mr Freeman arrived in the Williams St foyer about 9.40am with two boys.

"The gentleman presented in a frozen state," law courts psychologist Ilana Katz said in her police statement.

"He seemed unable to communicate. He shook, tears ran down his face."

Sen-Constable Shaun Hill unsuccessfully tried to speak to Mr Freeman and asked young Ben if he and his little brother were OK.

"The male then stood up. He said, `Take me away'," Sen-Constable Hill said in his statement.

Peta Barnes was at home when she received a phone call from police.

Water police had recovered Darcey from the water. She was barely alive and was rushed to the Royal Children's Hospital.

Ms Barnes was taken straight there. "I am incredibly thankful that I had some time with her before she passed away," the grieving mother told police.

Arthur Phillip Freeman, 36, this week pleaded not guilty to murder and has been committed to stand trial in the Supreme Court.

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