Hemi Burke had marks on his back, bruising on his neck and bruises along his ribs.
Hemi Burke had marks on his back, bruising on his neck and bruises along his ribs.

Handshake then an act of betrayal

ON MARCH 23, 2015, Matthew James Ireland shook his mate Shane Burke's hand and promised he would care for his children as though they were his own.

Ireland had been a friend. But instead of caring for Mr Burke's children, he drunkenly beat 18-month-old Hemi so badly he would die from his injuries.

When Hemi's parents arrived at the hospital that night, their little boy lay in a bed, machines keeping him alive.

Pictures: Supplied
Pictures: Supplied

He had marks on his back, bruising on his neck and bruises along his ribs. To stop him from crying, Ireland had put his hands on Hemi's stomach and pushed so hard, the little boy had passed blood.

It was Mr Burke who turned off Hemi's life support. He'd removed tubes from the son he knew was no longer with them and passed the little boy to his partner, Kerri-Ann Goodwin. She held him close and waited for him to die.

And for this terrible, abhorrent, evil crime, Ireland would be sentenced to a non-parole period of 5½ years.

Hemi Goodwin-Burke.
Hemi Goodwin-Burke.

 

Hemi pictured with Ireland.
Hemi pictured with Ireland.

His sentence was among those examined by the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council, which resulted in the State Government announcing it would move to widen the definition of murder to stop child-killers getting such light sentences.

Very few Queenslanders would agree such a stint was adequate for beating a defenceless child to death.

Nor would they agree six months prison was adequate punishment for beating another child, as revealed by The Courier-Mail this week. Ireland pleaded guilty to punching a little girl in the head, giving her a golf ball-sized lump and ongoing medical issues.

If the State Government is willing to introduce an aggravating factor for the manslaughter of a child - increasing the sentence because the victim is defenceless - surely the same could be considered for the assault of a child.

A child just as defenceless, just as vulnerable, who was just lucky enough to survive an attack from a violent and evil man who'd promised to protect her.


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