Police has confirmed Major Crime detectives will review their files into the infamous deaths of three babies in the 1990s.
Police has confirmed Major Crime detectives will review their files into the infamous deaths of three babies in the 1990s.

Police to review baby deaths cases

Major Crime detectives will review their cold case files into the sudden deaths of three babies who died in shocking circumstances in the 1990s.

The major development has given fresh hope to Julie-Ann Nottle, who has been fighting for justice for her deceased son for 27 years.

After reviewing all their holdings into the cases, SA Police will make a decision on whether to further pursue a formal investigation.

Ms Nottle's lawyer recieved a letter from detectives earlier this month informing her client of the development.

"I am over the moon that they are just going to look at it again, it's wonderful," Ms Nottle said.

"I do hope that it will lead to an investigation."

In cases that would infamously become known as "The Baby Deaths", three Adelaide infants died in separate incidents between October 1992 and August 1993.

In each case, discredited former state chief forensic pathologist Dr Colin Manock ruled the causes of death as bronchopneumonia, despite each baby having injuries consistent with physical abuse.

Storm Don Deane, aged three months, died in October 1992 before William Barnard, nine months, died in July 1993.

Nine-month-old Joshua Nottle, who had the most severe injuries, died in his cot in August 1993.

 

Julie-Ann Nottle poses for photographs with a photograph of her baby boy Joshua Nottle. Pictured in 2018. Picture: Tracey Nearmy/The Australian
Julie-Ann Nottle poses for photographs with a photograph of her baby boy Joshua Nottle. Pictured in 2018. Picture: Tracey Nearmy/The Australian

After a police interview, his father Sean McCluskey was charged with murder, but the charges were downgraded to intentionally causing grievous bodily harm after Dr Manock's deficient autopsy. McCluskey pleaded not guilty and the Director of Public Prosecutions withdrew all charges in 1994.

Dr Manock's testimony was thoroughly discredited during an inquest between 1994 and 1995, when Coroner Wayne Chivell found deficient autopsies in the three cases had closed off police inquiries.

During the inquest, medical experts said Joshua had multiple rib fractures and a spinal injury that would typically only be seen in children who are thrown from vehicles in high-speed road crashes.

An SA Police spokeswoman said: "SA Police can confirm that there will be a management review of the matter. Until that time we have no further comment to make".

Ms Nottle expressed her relief that SA Police were reviewing their files, saying: "Joshua and those other two little boys should never have been forgotten like they were".

"I could never understand why my complaints to police were repeatedly ignored. I think they just wanted me to go away but I refused to give up on Joshua."

 

Former Chief Forensic Pathologist Dr Colin Manock at his house in 2014. Picture: Dylan Coker
Former Chief Forensic Pathologist Dr Colin Manock at his house in 2014. Picture: Dylan Coker

Ms Nottle said she felt unheard as she tirelessly fought for justice on her own for more than 27 years - but things "took off" when she was contacted by lawyer Yasmin McMahon in October and offered her pro bono services.

"I think they must have realised: 'oh she means business now'. Not that I didn't before, but I didn't have firepower," she said.

"It's like the difference between flinging a rubber band and using a bazooka."

Ms Nottle and Ms McMahon lobbied both SA Police and the government, together with SA-BEST MLC Frank Pangallo and leading British researcher into miscarriages of justice, Satish Sekar, to achieve this breakthrough.

Mr Pangallo questioned police commissioner Grant Stevens about the case in a recent meeting of parliament's Budget and Finance Committee.

"At the time he got a little grumpy with me but I would like to thank him for following it up," he said.

"This is a significant breakthrough that again puts Dr Manock's incompetent work over many decades under the microscope."

Ms Nottle said Joshua would have turned 28 last month and she frequently wonders what kind of man he would have become.

"I reckon Joshua would have been really good with people and he would have been a good soul, but unfortunately that was taken from me," she said.

"When I pray I normally talk to him. He's always in the back of my mind - there's not really a day that goes past when I don't think of him."

Mr Sekar sent an eight-page letter to Attorney-General Vickie Chapman and other MPs, demanding action.

 

gabriel.polychronis@news.com.au

 

 

 

 

 

Originally published as Major Crime to review 'Baby Deaths' cold cases


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