TRINITY Bates spent her final hours having dinner with her family, watching a movie and playing an electronic game.

Her mother, Amanda Clarke, had to tell the eight-year-old to go to sleep because it was a school night.

That was about 9.30pm on February 21, 2010, and the last time the Bundaberg mum would see her daughter alive.

The little girl - wearing only the three-quarter pyjamas she had slept in - was found face down, twisted and bruised, 22m inside a concrete storm water drain not far from her Walker St home.

Allyn John Slater, 22, was yesterday sentenced to life imprisonment when he faced Brisbane Supreme Court for murdering the girl.

Due to new legislation, life imprisonment in Queensland now means a minimum 20 years without parole. Slater had already spent 892 days in custody.

Trinity's dad, Damian Bates, who was working for a house removal and demolition company at the time, rose at 4.45am on February 22.

Amanda got up to make his lunch and they sat together while he had breakfast at the back of the house.

She later went back to bed and Damian walked up the driveway to wait for a lift to work as he did every morning. But he noticed two things were unusual.

One of the three sets of windows to Trinity's room, at the front of the house, was open - and there was a green plastic outdoor chair directly beneath it.

After a frantic and fruitless search of the house and yard for their missing daughter, Trinity's parents phoned 000.

Police, family and friends began a search of the neighbourhood just after 6am and a police dog soon found the girl's lifeless body in a culvert running behind Walker St.

Prosecutor Todd Fuller said pathologists determined she had drowned from the water running through the pipe where she had been dumped face down.

Police found Slater's fingerprints and drops of Trinity's blood at the window to her bedroom.

Mr Fuller said Slater could not explain why he had gone to the child's room and killed her. He said he had no real memory of what occurred inside the bedroom or going to the drain.

But he did remember he found it difficult to manoeuvre or stand up in the drain, and he remembered choking Trinity and dragging her as he crawled through the pipe.

"He indicated he hadn't been upset with Trinity. She was his brother's best friend," Mr Fuller said.

"He had no idea why he chose to go to their house that night or indeed remove the child from the room. He denied any sexual motivation for what had occurred."

Mr Fuller said the murder could "only be described as a senseless crime that strikes at the heart of the community".

"The motivation for it will never be known," he said.

Defence barrister Carl Heaton said his client had expressed "great regret for what he had done".

"In a childish way, perhaps reflecting his personality generally, he wished for the capacity to be able to turn back time and take back what had happened," Mr Heaton said.

"The circumstances of it are difficult for him to even reconcile in his own mind with the person he knows himself otherwise to be."

Justice Duncan McMeekin said the murder was "simply inexplicable" and "every parent's worst possible nightmare".

"You took an eight-year-old child from her bedroom where she was sleeping, strangled her and left her to drown in a drain," he told Slater.

"It has horrified the community in which Trinity lived and devastated a family.

"They live every day with the appalling loss you've inflicted on them."

North Coast regional crime co-ordinator Detective Superintendent Maurice Carless said outside court the sentencing was the conclusion of a long investigation.

"As you can imagine, this is not solved for (the Bates family)," he said.

"This is not over for them; this is just a legal conclusion. It is certainly not a conclusion in what is a human tragedy."

 

Timeline of Tragedy

 

February 22, 2010

Trinity's parents, Damian and Amanda, wake to find their little girl missing from her bed. Police establish a crime scene and begin scouting the area near the family's Walker St home. The eight-year-old's body is discovered in a drain that runs under Hunter St a short time after the search begins. Later that day, police appeal to anyone with information about the murder to come forward.

February 23, 2010

Allyn John Slater, then aged 19, is taken into custody, questioned and charged with Trinity's murder late in the evening. Police also begin investigations into postings of pornographic images and sexually explicit comments on a Facebook page created to honour the slain girl's memory. The community's grief is clear, with flowers and tributes lining the street near Trinity's home. Kerry Hanlon, Trinity's nanny, speaks with media about her grand-daughter, who "was just a pleasure to be around".

February 24, 2010

Allyn John Slater faces Bundaberg Magistrates Court, where his case is adjourned to allow police more time to prepare forensic evidence. Following the hearing, Slater is taken to the Brisbane Correctional Centre for his own safety. Police warn outraged members of the community to let justice run its course, as hate sites spring up on Facebook and people hurl abuse at the accused outside court. Members of the community hold a candlelight prayer vigil in the CBD, which hundreds attend.

March 1, 2010

An elderly couple with the surname Slater say they are living in fear after a Facebook message wrongly reveals them as members of Allyn John Slater's family, despite them never having even heard of him before he was charged. The pair say they have received repeated prank calls and have people constantly driving past their home.

March 2, 2010

Gooburrum State School begins a trust fund for Trinity's family.

March 10, 2010

Two weeks after her death, family and friends of Trinity Bates gather at her funeral at Citicoast Church to say goodbye. At the request of Trinity's family, mourners wear the little girl's favourite colour, pink, and release balloons and butterflies at the end of the ceremony.

March 31, 2010

Trinity's Gooburrum school friends hold a memorial service and plant a tree in her honour.

May 17, 2010

Bundaberg Magistrates Court is told the brief of evidence connected to Trinity's murder is ready to be handed over to Slater's defence. Lawyers for the accused say they will need a lengthy adjournment to sift through the evidence.

June 5, 2010

Brisbane man Bradley Paul Hampson, 29, appears in Brisbane Magistrates Court charged with plastering child porn across Facebook tribute pages that had been set up to honour Trinity. Hampson's bail is denied for his own safety, but the magistrate says bail could be granted at the next appearance if suitable living arrangements can be made for him.

June 14, 2010

Trinity's family speaks to the NewsMail about the loss of their "perfect" girl and thank the Bundaberg community for its support during the difficult period.

July 2, 2010

Bradley Paul Hampson's second bail application is successful and he is released.

August 3, 2010

Lawyers for Allyn John Slater request a date for a committal mention, which they say is expected to last at least five days.

September 14, 2010

Slater's committal hearing is delayed while the prosecution waits for pathology results.

November 3, 2010

Slater's committal hearing is set for March 28-30, 2011.

March 25, 2011

Bradley Paul Hampson is sentenced to three years jail, with parole after serving 12 months, and a two-year probation order to follow his release from custody.

March 28, 2011

Slater's committal hearing begins in Bundaberg Magistrates Court. A police officer gives evidence about discovering Trinity's body. 

March 29, 2011

On day two of the committal hearing, a cellmate says Slater told him he had taken Trinity from her bed and later "squeezed" her.

March 30, 2011

On the final day of his committal hearing, Slater is committed to stand trial at a later date in Bundaberg Supreme Court.

June 5, 2011

Bradley Paul Hampson is released from jail after a successful appeal in which his sentence is deemed manifestly excessive. His sentence is cut so he is only required to serve six months in jail. Hampson had already served 220 days behind bars and is released immediately.

August 23, 2011

Slater's lawyers say they are considering applying to have the case moved to Brisbane to ensure he will have a fair trial.

August 1, 2012

Just days before his trial is due to start, Slater pleads guilty in Brisbane Supreme Court to murdering Trinity.

August 2, 2012

Allyn John Slater is sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Trinity Bates.



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