New dimension in murder-suicide crash probe
THE Department of Child Safety had been investigating the welfare of the McLeod children since at least December, according to a post written by their mother, who is now suspected of killing them.
The deaths of Charmaine Harris McLeod and her children - Aaleyn, 6, Matilda, 5, Wyatt, 4, and Zaidok, 2 - are being investigated as a possible murder-suicide after their car crashed head-on with a truck near Kingaroy on Monday.
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The Sunday Mail can reveal the children's deaths will also be examined by the independent Child Death Case Review Panel - part of a "two-tiered" review process instigated when a child who is known to the department within the past 12 months is seriously injured or dies.
Investigators combing the scene found Ms Harris McLeod's handbag about 200m away - believed to have been thrown from the car. Inside was a note police believe was penned by the mother.
The note, as well as an absence of skid marks and no attempt to swerve from the truck, resulted in homicide detectives joining crash investigators in examining the deaths.
Asked last week whether the children's deaths were being investigated as a homicide, Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said: "Absolutely."
The five deaths have not been added to the road toll.
"This will take some time, and obviously the coroner has a very great interest in the outcome of that investigation," he said.
"But no matter what happened, no matter why it happened, it's a tragedy for all of those involved and the Queensland community."
Ms Harris McLeod often posted to Facebook groups about personal issues. In one post, written last December, she said she'd had "significant mental health issues" in the past.
She went on to say "now Child Safety are involved".
"We feel alone and lost," she wrote of herself and her children last year.
"Life is hard, really hard … I'm struggling to even trust God."
Deputy Opposition Leader Tim Mander called on the Government to be transparent about the Department of Child Safety's involvement with the family.
"The situation ... has raised some very serious questions," he said.
"It would appear that this family was well known to child protection agencies.
"So the Palaszczuk Government needs to be transparent and open about this case so Queenslanders can have comfort that our vulnerable children are being protected.
"(The) Government needs to tell us what they knew, when they knew it, and what they tried to do to protect these young children."
Minister for Child Safety Di Farmer said she was legally prevented from discussing individual child safety cases.
"The death of any child is tragic and the loss of this family is an absolute tragedy," she said. "I know everyone wants answers, and so do I, but we need this to be done properly, and we need to allow police and the coroner the time and space to do their job.
"However, what I can say is that where a child who is known to the child protection system dies or suffers a serious injury, there is a two-tier review process in place to make sure it is thoroughly investigated."
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