Grieving uncles tell of Tyrell Cobb's last hours
TYRELL Cobb's last evening in the Gold Coast house where he died haunts Bradley and Danial Allan.
Exactly what killed the brothers' adored nephew Tyrell may never be determined and is the subject of court hearings after the four-year-old's mother Heidi Strbak pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
But what happened in the space of 45 minutes while Tyrell was in the care of his stepfather Matthew Scown still deeply disturbs the boy's uncles.
As Danial Allan describes it, he left a sleepy Tyrell tucked up in bed and returned to find his nephew's body lying in the hallway.
And now Scown - the man who was photographed grinning on his way out of court and laughing openly after a plea deal saw his early release from prison for Tyrell's manslaughter - has turned Crown witness.
With Tyrell's mother in a jail cell awaiting a prison sentence, his grieving uncles are standing up for the boy whose grave they still visit with balloons and flowers.
"If Heidi had done it, we wouldn't have anything to do with her," Bradley told news.com.au in an exclusive interview. "I wouldn't have her back if she had anything at all to do with it, but Heidi is being thrown under the bus.
"As I said after Tyrell died, I don't care who it is, I just want to know who has done this."
As Danial put it: "I just want justice for my mate.
"He called us Uncle Danny and Uncle Braddy.
"He loved dinosaurs. His favourite [TV series] The Land Before Time creature was Chomper.
"The only thing I want out of this is justice for Tyrell."
Both the Allan brothers and their stepsister, Strbak, have received death threats.
Speaking from a location they prefer is kept secret, the brothers have decided to reveal for the first time what went on inside their family.
"We're in Tyrell's corner," Bradley said.
Both men have their nephew's name tattooed on their forearms, Bradley with Tyrell's birth and death dates, Danial with a green dinosaur.
The last words Tyrell said to him are etched in Danial's mind, as are the moments before he and his sister left Tyrell in the care of Scown.
Both men still rankle at the idea of Scown being called their nephew's stepfather.
Danial had known Scown for around 20 years before the man now dubbed the "grin reaper" entered a brief relationship with his sister.
Scown had moved into the flat Strbak lived in with her son because he had "nowhere else" to stay at the time after his business had failed.
Danial had previously shared a flat with Scown, a former Sunshine Coast seafood dealer and tuna boat worker who was also "a party boy and a ladies man".
"He's an a***hole," Danial told news.com.au.
Tyrell's last evening alive was Sunday, May 24, 2009, the second night Danial was spending at his sister's Biggera Waters flat on the Gold Coast.
"Heidi was one of the most dedicated mothers you could ever meet," Danial said.
"Even Tyrell's kindergarten teacher said he was one of the best dressed kids with the healthiest lunch box."
Tyrell was born on the Gold Coast in February 2005, but went back to live with his mother and father, Jason Cobb, in the outback NSW mining town of Lightning Ridge.
Strbak, who is related to her stepbrothers by the marriage of their mother to her father, a Czech immigrant, worked in the kitchen of Lightning Ridge Hospital
Tyrell's mother, grandparents and uncles were a close family who doted on Tyrell.
When they visited Lightning Ridge, Danial said they saw their nephew in his element, picking up bits of opal as if they were dinosaur eggs.
"We stayed up till two or three in the morning making Tyrell a T-Rex cake for his birthday," Bradley said.
When Strbak's relationship with Mr Cobb broke down, she moved to the Gold Coast in 2008 with Tyrell.
Mr Cobb would phone his son every night, and the boy's uncles forged an even closer relationship with their nephew.
In May, 2009, Tyrell injured his arm when he was pushed off a slide at kindergarten.
Strbak noticed bruising on the top of her son's head and behind his ear.
Days later, he cut his finger on a toy box and Strbak's took him to the doctor who prescribed antibiotics.
"Matt had put a toy in the gap of the lid of the toy box and it fell on Tyrell's finger which became very infected," Bradley said.
With the infection worsening, Strbak took Tyrell to hospital where he was admitted, and then discharged on Wednesday, May 20.
On the Friday, Tyrell vomited and Strbak later reported that she had seen red marks over his body, including up his spine and the back of his left ear.
The next day, Tyrell complained of sore stomach and he continued vomiting.
Strbak noticed bruising around Tyrell's groin area and later reported he told her he "ran into the coffee table", before changing it to saying: "I was kicked" by Scown.
On the Saturday, Danial came to stay at his sister's flat.
"He had been crook for a couple of days and was throwing up a little bit from the strong antibiotics," he told news.com.au.
"It was a little bit off colour but nothing to make you call an ambulance.
Bradley didn't see Tyrell that weekend because he had gone away on a trip with mates for his birthday.
On the Sunday night, while putting Tyrell to bed, Danial stayed chatting with his nephew.
Strbak asked Danial to drive her to Bradley's house to pick up marijuana for her and Scown to smoke, court documents allege.
He will never forget Tyrell's last words.
"He said 'Hey Uncle Danny, where are you going?"
When Danial told him he was going out to Uncle Bradley's place, Tyrell asked his uncle to "come back down" for a little while before he left the house.
"Then we got a drink," Danial said. "They were the last words I heard Tyrell say.
"He was walking, talking, everything before we left."
It was a cold, rainy night, about 9pm.
The siblings drove to the house of Bradley, who by his own admission had "a hangover that would kill a small goat" after his weekend away "with the boys".
Danial estimated they were gone from the Bright Street flat for 40 to 45 minutes, but when they returned something catastrophic had happened to Tyrell.
"Matt came to the door and said 'look at Tyrell' and that something had happened to him," Danial said.
In the hallway of the flat, Tyrell was lying unconscious with green bile streaming from his nose and mouth.
Danial heard his sister scream, and yell at Scown: "I left him with you for an hour, what the f**k have you done with him?' as she dialled triple-0. A neighbour, a Qantas employee trained in CPR, came over and tried to revive Tyrell.
"Matt was trying to pull him off Tyrell," Danial said. "Tyrell was already gone."
An autopsy showed Tyrell had died from a blunt force trauma to his abdomen, which caused a laceration which bled.
Scown told Strbak that Tyrell fell while in the shower.
At around 10.30pm that night, Tyrell was pronounced dead.
The Allans' mother and Heidi's father were already on their way to the Gold Coast from Lightning Ridge.
Days later, Gold Coast police charged Matthew Ian Anthony Scown with Tyrell's murder, but dropped the charge after a pathologist gave contradictory evidence.
With Strbak, Bradley and Danial continued to visit the boy's grave in a Gold Coast cemetery, releasing balloons and a note on his birthday every year.
Strbak joined the Australian Army and gave birth to another son, but her family began to "fall apart".
Danial fell out with the rest of the family and made accusations against them and Strbak, which he now regrets.
"I did a stupid thing and I said things I didn't mean," he said.
In August, 2015, police charged both Strbak and Scown with Tyrell's murder.
Scown was remanded in custody due to a previous failure to appear on an unconnected charge.
Strbak was released on conditional bail.
Bradley and Danial say they understood their sister and Scown would be jointly tried for Tyrell's murder, to which both would plead of not guilty.
In November last year, the charges were downgraded to manslaughter and both were committed for trial.
Scown applied for bail, but a magistrate refused him on the grounds he had a "poor history of compliance" with bail undertakings and community-based orders.
Again, the Allan brothers believed Scown and their sister were approaching a joint trial.
But on October 10, they turned on their televisions to see Matthew Scown grinning as he walked from the Brisbane Supreme Court.
Queensland Justice Martin Burns gave Scown a maximum four years for manslaughter by negligence of failing in his duty of care to Tyrell.
Scown had the remainder of his sentence suspended for the time he had already served in a plea deal with Queensland authorities for pleading guilty and turning Crown witness against his former partner, Strbak.
Justice Burns said Scown had shown "extreme concern" for Tyrell in a triple-0 call in which he said the boy was "turning blue" and was "going to die on me".
Bradley and Danial were stunned.
Strbak pleaded guilty to manslaughter as a result of criminal negligence and her sentencing hearing took place over three days earlier this month.
But she faced a contested sentencing hearing because prosecutors now claimed she was responsible for the blunt force trauma that caused Tyrell's death despite Danial's evidence that his nephew told him Scown had punched him in the stomach.
Strbak has been incarcerated and Tyrell's uncles believe she may face a harsher penalty than Scown, who gave evidence against her.
Her barrister, Greg McGuire put to Scown in the witness box that Tyrell was injured three times when she was not in the room, and a fourth time when she was absent from the house.
"If you want to put it like that," Scown replied.
Bradley told news.com.au that Heidi had been receiving death threats on Facebook by people who wanted to "slice her up".
"Heidi is still grieving for her son Tyrell. She loved Tyrell and I know she wouldn't harm him in anyway," he said.
"All she's ever wanted is for people to believe she didn't do it. She was seeking justice for her son Tyrell right from the beginning and look what she is getting on the end.
"Now, after [Scown] got out, she's getting the backlash because people want someone to pay for her son's death."
Justice Peter Applegarth will hand down his sentence for Strbak in mid-December.