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Man gets life for hanging stepchildren
A stockman who hanged two of his stepchildren in a cemetery and watched as they died will spend at least 22 years in jail for their "heartless" murders.
Terrence Laurence Dann, 37, was sentenced in the West Australian Supreme Court to two life sentences with minimum terms of 22 years, to be served concurrently.
Dann on Tuesday pleaded guilty to wilfully murdering his 14-month-old stepson and four year-old stepdaughter in Derby, in Western Australia's Kimberley region, in the early hours of April 23 this year.
Dann used the skills he learned on the rodeo circuit to fashion a noose for his stepson before hanging the toddler from a tree in the town's cemetery.
When the boy was dead, he took the girl and, ignoring her screams and cries, hanged her in a similar fashion.
Afterwards, he drove to Derby police station and confessed.
In sentencing Dann, Justice Nicholas Hasluck said the murders were at the top end of the scale of seriousness.
He said Dann had made a calculated decision to end the lives of his stepchildren and then "stood by in a completely heartless way in each case until the end had arrived".
"It seems you wanted to punish your partner, and in that mood, without any justification, you took the lives of two children," he said.
After the sentencing, the children's mother, Jacinta Djiagween, told ABC radio, her former partner's crimes had ruined her life.
"He's pretty much trashed my life and left a big scar there ... I'd rather have him dead," she said.
Justice Hasluck took into consideration a psychological report that found Dann displayed narcissistic personality traits and lacked empathy towards children - adding to the likelihood of recidivism.
But he said he would not take into account Dann's claim that he would face a tribal death penalty when released from jail, saying speculation about future "unlawful acts" would only obscure Wednesday's sentence for crimes he described as calculated, callous and gruesome.
Dann had also pleaded guilty to a vicious assault on Ms Djiagween, 29, who suffered life-threatening injuries when attacked minutes before her children were murdered.
Dann told police he "flogged her" because he thought she had been lying to him.
He was sentenced to four years jail for that attack, a further two years for threatening to kill Ms Djiagween, as well as 16 months for breaching a violence restraining order.
All sentences will be served concurrently.
Dann's expression remained unchanged throughout Wednesday's proceedings, which were transmitted to courts in Derby, Broome and Kununurra to allow relatives of the children to hear the sentencing.
Outside court in Perth, Francis Djiagween, who according to tribal custom is the grandfather of the two young victims, said he had no sympathy for Dann.
"I won't give any sympathy to that bloke because (of) what he done to our children, grandchildren," he said outside the court.
"He disgraced all his family ... he's a shame to all our peoples."
The court was told Dann's criminal history included three charges for a serious assault against his first child that resulted in the child being removed from his care.
Victim impact statements from the young victims' father, mother, grandmother and aunt reflected an ongoing sense of bewilderment, anguish and loss, Justice Hasluck said.
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Plea for tribal death for hanging children
An Aboriginal stockman who hanged two of his stepchildren in a cemetery and watched as they died is prepared to return to his home town to face a tribal death penalty.
Terrence Laurence Dann, 37, today formally pleaded guilty in the West Australian Supreme Court to the wilful murder of his 14-month-old stepson and his four-year-old stepdaughter.
The children were hanged in a cemetery in Derby, in WA's far north, early on April 23 this year.
Dann also admitted assaulting the children's 29-year-old mother Jacinta Djiagween, who was repeatedly beaten and kicked minutes before her two children were murdered.
At a sentencing hearing today, Justice Nicholas Hasluck was told that Dann had consumed at least 26 beers in the hours leading up to the killings, but according to witnesses, he was not stumbling or slurring his speech.
Prosecutor Linda Petrusa said that after returning from Derby's Spinifex Hotel, where Dann had earlier that night won $100 in a joke-telling competition, the stockman argued with Ms Djiagween, accusing her of lying to him.
After punching her in the face, Dann kicked the mother-of-four with his cowboy boots, leaving her bleeding profusely and with three broken ribs and a punctured lung.
The court was told Ms Djiagween, who already had a restraining order against Dann, escaped to a neighbour's house and was taken to hospital.
Meanwhile, Dann drove the children to the cemetery where he tied a "hanging knot" in a rope and hung the young boy from a tree, suspending him about 60cm above the ground.
Ms Petrusa said that after watching the boy die, Dann took the girl from the car and, ignoring her screams and struggles, similarly hanged her.
The court was told he tightened the noose after seeing her feet were touching the ground.
When the children were dead, Dann drove to the Derby police station and admitted what he had done, later telling detectives it had been "payback time".
Calling for a term of life imprisonment under strict security, Ms Petrusa said the motivation for the killings appeared to be revenge and irritation.
"Having watched the death of one child, this offender returned (to kill again) ... one death was not sufficiently horrific or abhorrent to him," Ms Petrusa told the court.
"The motivation he described was that he was seeking revenge on the complainant for a perceived wrong ... not violence, mere words he perceived as a lie.
"The only other motivation is irritation that two very young children, woken in the middle of the night ... wouldn't settle. For that irritation, he killed them."
Dann's lawyer Sheila Amsden described her client as an intelligent, engaging man who was highly regarded and respected in the Derby area, and who loved all five of the children who lived with him and Ms Djiagween.
Reading out a letter pleading for forgiveness from the children's mother and the community, Dann told the court his family had arranged for fatal tribal punishment, and he was willing to face it.
"I must go back and face my people for what has happened ... it's called a death penalty," he said.
The proceedings were transmitted to three separate courts - in Derby, Broome and Kununurra - so relatives of the victims and Ms Djiagween were able to watch.
Justice Hasluck, who suppressed the names of the two children for cultural reasons, reserved his sentence until tomorrow.
The Sydney Morning Herald (25-11-2005)
Man In Court Over Kid's Deaths
A MAN has faced court over the deaths of his two young
step-children whose bodies were found in a cemetery
in far north Western Australia.
Police found the bodies of the 14-month-old boy and his
four-year-old sister in the cemetery at Derby, 2,400 km north
of Perth, yesterday after a 36-year-old man had earlier attended
the local police station.
They have not disclosed how the children had died.
It's alleged the man had first assaulted his estranged
de facto wife, the children's mother.
The 29-year-old woman tonight remains in a serious
condition in Derby District Hospital.
The 36-year-old man – who is charged with three
counts of grievous bodily harm – was transferred
from Derby to the town of Broome where he appeared
today before a specially convened hearing in the magistrates court.
He was remanded in custody to appear again in the
same court on Tuesday.
However, police said charges relating to the children
were likely to be upgraded pending results of a post
mortem examination due to take place later in the week.
Their bodies will be flown to Perth tomorrow.
Acting Deputy Commissioner Murray Lampard said today
the tragedy would have a devastating effect on the families
involved, and the close-knit town of Derby.
He appealed for people to remain calm.
"I appeal to all the family members to show restraint
and to have faith in the local police to ensure justice
is done," Mr Lampard said in a statement.
He said counselling services had been arranged through
the Department of Community Development for the families
affected by the children's deaths.
Children Hanged In Cemetery
THE bodies of two small children were found hanged in a cemetery
in a remote West Australian town early on Saturday after their
stepfather walked into the nearby police station and allegedly
confessed that he had killed them.
Frantic attempts to resuscitate the 14-month-old boy and his
four-year-old sister failed.
Police believe Terrence Laurence Dann, 36, seriously assaulted
his 29-year-old de facto wife before taking the baby boy and
his sister to the cemetery in the Kimberley town of Derby, where he killed them.
Mr Dann then went to Derby police station and turned himself in
at 3am (WST) on Saturday.
When police arrived they found one child still hanging and
another on the ground.
They tried frantically, but unsuccessfully, to revive them.
A police spokesman said the children's mother had taken out a
violence restraining order against Mr Dann on March 1, but the
pair were believed to have resumed their relationship and recently
began living together again. It is understood the woman went to
court to try to get the order revoked but was unable to do so.
Mr Dann appeared in Broome Magistrates Court yesterday charged with
three counts of grievous bodily harm.
Two of the charges are expected to be upgraded pending post mortem
examinations on the children.
He was remanded in custody to reappear on Tuesday.
Derby police said Mr Dann had been transferred to Broome for his
own safety, and his de facto wife had been moved to a hospital
outside Derby, where she is in a stable condition with a broken jaw and a collapsed lung.
Police are bracing themselves for possible violence and tribal
punishment in the wake of the murders, although Derby experienced
a quiet weekend.
Senior Constable Chris White said police were concerned about the
possibility of tribal punishment being meted out at the children's funeral.
"It's always a concern, but particularly at the funerals, so we'll be watching."
The children's bodies will be flown to Perth for post mortem
examinations, delaying the funerals - expected to be held in
Broome - until next week.
The children's biological father lives on a station near the
Mitchell Plateau and was told of their deaths on Saturday.
He is thought to be on his way to Derby.
Derby elder Lucy Marshall said the families involved were
traditional land owners and well known in the area.
"Everybody knows them," she said. "It's a shock to all of us."
She said the children's mother was a senior member of her
family, many of whom lived in Broome.
Her remaining three children had been taken to Broome to be
cared for by their grandmother.
Derby Senior Sergeant Jim Cave said police had talked to the
families involved to encourage them to remain calm.
"They're in sorry time at the moment and I've been assured
there won't be any trouble," Sergeant Cave said.
He said the officers who tried to resuscitate the children
had been offered counselling.
"It was the most shocking thing for them to find," he said.
The Department of Community Development is also arranging
counselling for the families involved.
Kimberley MP Carol Martin, who lives in Derby, said the
close-knit town was devastated.
"The community is numb, nobody can believe it," Ms Martin said.
"It's every parent's worst nightmare, no matter how old your
kids are, and it's something you'd never get over."
The Australian (25-4-2005)
'Child Killer' In Court
A man faced a West Australian court on charges of murdering his two stepchildren.
Derby resident Terrence Laurence Dann, 36, was remanded in custody yestersay after a
brief appearance in Broome Magistrates Court.
Dann has been in custody since police found the bodies of his four-year-old
stepdaughter and her 14-month-old brother in Pioneer Cemetery at Derby,
2400km north of Perth, early on April 23.
Police allege the children were hanged and their 29-year-old mother was seriously assaulted.
Adelaide Advertiser (3-5-2005)
Man Accused Of Hanging Children In Court
A MAN accused of beating his de facto wife before killing his
stepchildren by hanging them in a West Australian cemetery
has made another brief court appearance.
Terrence Dann, 36, was remanded in custody after an appearance
today in Broome Magistrates Court, where he faced two counts
of wilful murder and one of grievous bodily harm.
Mr Dann has been in custody since police found the bodies of
his four-year-old stepdaughter and her 14-month-old brother
in Pioneer Cemetery at Derby, 2400km north of Perth, on April 23.
Police allege the children were hanged and their 29-year-old
mother seriously assaulted.
Mr Dann, 36, originally faced three charges of grievous bodily
harm but those charges were later upgraded.
He appeared in the West Australian Supreme Court last week, when
he turned down the opportunity to apply for bail.
Today, Mr Dann was remanded in custody, did not enter a plea.
He will next appear in magistrate's court in Perth on June 27.
Stepfather To Plead Guilty
A PERTH court has been told a stepfather accused of murdering his
partner's two children by hanging them in a West Australian
cemetery intends to plead guilty to the charges.
Terrence Laurence Dann, 36, has been in custody since police
found the bodies of the 14-month-old boy and his four-year-old
sister in Pioneer Cemetery at Derby, 2400 km north of Perth, in April.
Dann appeared in Perth Magistrate's Court via videolink yesterday.
He told magistrate Kelvin Fisher he intends to plead guilty to
two counts of wilful murder, along with a charge of grievous
bodily harm against the children's mother.
He also faces a charge of breaking a violence restraining order,
believed to have been taken out by his 29-year-old former
de-facto wife the month before the killings.
Dann will return to court on July the 18th to enter his plea,
and will then be sentenced in WA's Supreme Court.
The stepfather of two children found hanged in a West
Australian cemetary, yesterday pleaded guilty to wilfully murdering
them causing grievous bodily harm to their mother.
Terrence Dann, 36, murdered the boy, 1 and his
sister, 4, at Derby, 2400km north of Perth, on April 23.
Adelaide Advertiser (26-7-2005)
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