Moment of Mason’s horrific fatal blow recorded
THE moments leading up to the horrific fatal blow to the abdomen that caused the death of Caboolture toddler Mason Lee were recorded, it has been revealed.
A coroner's report pinpointed for the first time the moment the fatal blow was struck - a detail never before uncovered in court proceedings against Mason's mother Anne Maree Lee and stepfather William O'Sullivan.
In June of 2016, O'Sullivan struck the neglected boy so hard that his organs ruptured and left him to die a slow and painful death over days, refusing to seek help. Mason's mother and O'Sullivan were each sentenced to nine years' imprisonment over the 21-month-old toddler's manslaughter.
The coroner said an audio recording from CCTV that O'Sullivan had installed at his house revealed that on June 6, 2016, Mason can be heard crying and O'Sullivan tells the boy "Oh, shut up".
When the toddler continues to cry he is then heard to scream.
"I find that it was at this time that Mr O'Sullivan struck him forcefully in the abdomen," the coroner said.
"The blow perforated his duodenum and tore the proximal jejunal mesentery. These injuries caused chemical peritonitis followed by bacterial peritonitis and septicaemia."
Mason died five days later on June 11.
The revelation came as the coroner slammed the child safety department's role in the death of Mason, saying the agency failed the neglected little boy in "nearly every way possible".
The damning inquest findings rev ealed that 21 employees of the department involved in Mason's case had "failed to carry out their duties appropriately" in the months leading up to the boy's "painful and prolonged" death - but not a single person had been sacked.
Among some of the worst failures discovered by Deputy Coroner Jane Bentley were Child Safety workers ignoring a warning that the boy was being "held hostage" by his "dangerous and violent" stepdad the day before he died, failing to follow up when they saw him limping in pain, letting him leave hospital despite doctors warning he was in danger, not bothering to even check he was present during routine home visits and ignoring claims of serious domestic violence.
Ms Bentley said that Child Safety guidelines showed Mason should have been seen face-to-face 12 times in the months leading up to his death.
But he was sighted just once in that time from the front door of his mum's house where two child safety officers "saw that he was walking awkwardly, but didn't ask to check his injuries", despite the department being aware of his history of nappy rash that an experienced doctor called the worst he'd seen in his career.
The pair even laughed about the boy's injuries in the car after the home visit, joking about asking his mum Anne Maree Lee about Mason's injury telling investigators they had joked: "like, can you show us your baby's arse … but we didn't ask".
"Had anyone from the department seen Mason in the weeks before his death they could have saved his life," the deputy coroner said.
Despite the damning findings, Child Safety Minister Di Farmer yesterday confirmed not a single one of the 21 people involved in Mason's case had been sacked.
She said while three staff members had left "of their own accord", nine others had simply been reprimanded. She did not respond to questions about what, if any, action had been taken against the other nine. "Our Child Safety officers are faced with the depths of depravity every single day and they work their hardest to make sure they are keeping kids from harm," she said.
"Although the handling of Mason's case was a failure in nearly every possible way by the relevant employees of the department to comply with their statutory obligations, their manual, their policies and procedures, there are some failures which are so concerning that they require highlighting," the coroner said.
On June 10, the day before Mason died, one employee identified as CSO6, was warned by a neighbour that O'Sullivan was "dangerous and violent and holding Mason hostage", but she took no action and went home for the day. The toddler died hours later in the early hours of June 11.
Ms Bentley said CSO6 had "incredibly" told investigators that she didn't think there was any urgency in the warning and, despite holding a masters degree in social work, claimed she thought her only job was to check on Ms Lee, not Mason.
"CSO6 apparently had no idea of her basic role or even that her job was the protection of children - when asked to do a safety check of the family she thought she was just going there to see if Ms Lee was OK …," Ms Bentley said.
Mason's short life was one of pain and suffering and his autopsy revealed dozens of injuries including a fractured leg that was never treated, his bowel was collapsed, a fractured coccyx, deep anal fissures, 46 bruises, ulcers, lesions, a prolapsed rectum, methylamphetamine and amphetamine in his system and six internal haemorrhages on his scalp that doctors said was likely caused by someone aggressively pulling his hair.
The Coroner made a series of recommendations as part of her findings including encouraging better disclosure by Child Safety to the Queensland Police, more inclusion of and disclosure with external case workers such as Mission Australia in Suspected Child Abuse Network meetings and formal procedures for doctors who disagree with the discharge of at-risk children from hospital.
Ms Bentley also encouraged the department to review its procedures in relation to the Carmody Inquiry's recommendation that "adoption is routinely and genuinely considered as a suitable permanency option for children in out-of-home care where reunification or unification is unlikely, and should be pursued in those cases, particularly for children aged under three years".
She recommended adoption be "routinely and genuinely" considered by CSOs when deciding where to place a child in out-of-home care". Ms Bentley also called on the department to report to the Coroners Court of Queensland the numbers of children adopted and the details of those matters, every six months for the next five years.
Originally published as Moment of Mason's horrific fatal blow recorded