Baby murder charge dropped: Dareton mother speaks of relief after case thrown out

EXCLUSIVE

A DARETON woman accused of killing one of her five children has spoken of the “massive relief” after a murder charge was withdrawn by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions this week.

Thirty-three-year-old Tracey Sneddon yesterday said it was “a horrible moment” when she was accused of killing her nine-month-old son Elijah Dowdy and now it was time to move on and enjoy life.

Ms Sneddon was due to return to court in August when a post-mortem report and a crime scene officer’s statement were to be filed to complete the police brief of evidence.

However, on Tuesday this week, the Office of the Department of Public Prosecutions withdrew the murder charge “because there was no reasonable prospect of conviction on the available evidence”.

Elijah was taken to Mildura Base Hospital after being found unresponsive at the family’s semi-rural property in October 2017.

In a critical condition, he was flown to the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne where he died the following day.

Ms Sneddon was charged with the boy’s murder in April last year and remained in custody until her release earlier this year.

Yesterday she said the decision to drop the murder charge came “out of the blue” and she now wanted to make up for lost time.

She said being accused of having killed one of her own children was something she would “definitely” never get over.

“I was devastated to know that my name was put out there in the start,” she said.

“But it’s now time to move on and enjoy life, catch up with my children and go on a big holiday with the family.

“It has brought us all much closer together – it shows how much you lose when you’ve lost them and how much you want to gain back time with them.”

Ms Sneddon said she and her partner Timothy Dowdy and four children, aged from three to eight, went out on Tuesday night for a celebratory dinner.

But she said the knowledge that the family was not complete remained difficult.

“It’s very hard without Elijah and I definitely think about him every day,” she said.

“But I’ve got lots of support and four beautiful loving kids.”

A hearing at the Broken Hill Local Court in June last year was told Elijah suffered a fractured skull, bruising to his eyes and face, severe brain swelling and bleeding around the spinal cord.

The court heard the injuries were consistent with “shaking” and blunt force trauma.

Ms Sneddon maintained that Elijah’s fatal injuries were caused by his then 22-month-old brother, however prosecutors had argued that expert evidence made its case a strong one.

The court heard a medical expert found a toddler would not have had the strength or coordination to inflict the injuries.

Prosecutors said the case against Ms Sneddon was strengthened by her behaviour after Elijah was taken to hospital, including her gathering clothing and towels to put in the washing machine instead of accepting an offer by paramedics to accompany the child in the ambulance.

Ms Sneddon’s counsel Robert Hoyles said Elijah’s older brother “had been rough” with him in the past and his client looked after her children without incident for several months between Elijah’s death and her arrest.

He said the case against his client relied solely on circumstantial evidence.

Before the murder charge was dropped this week, Magistrate Michelle Goodwin had said the case against Ms Sneddon would proceed “with great haste” to the Supreme Court.

This story appears in Saturday's Sunraysia Daily, 8/6/2019. To subscribe to our Digital Edition, click here

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