Stepmother accused of leaving four-year-old disabled girl Willow Dunn to starve to death is denied bail two years after she was charged with murder – as tragic new details emerge about the case that shocked Australia
A four-year-old girl who suffered from ‘terrible neglect’ was so severely malnourished an expert found she stopped growing eight months before her death, a court has heard.
Willow Dunn’s stepmother Shannon Leigh White and father Mark James Dunn have been committed to stand trial for the child’s murder.
But White applied for bail in the Brisbane Supreme Court on Monday arguing the case for reckless murder was weak and the trial would not be held for some time.
Justice David Boddice disagreed, refusing White’s application as the 45-year-old sat in the dock wiping away tears.
Willow Dunn’s stepmother Shannon Leigh White (left) and father Mark James Dunn (right) have been committed to stand trial for the child’s murder.
Brisbane girl Willow Dunn was found dead in May last year
Willow, who had Down syndrome, was found dead in a house at Cannon Hill, Brisbane on May 25 last year, but is believed to have died about two days before.
Barrister Paula Morreau conceded there appeared to be a strong manslaughter case against White.
But told the court the ‘significantly large case’ meant the trial might be held in 12 months and White had already been behind bars for two years.
Justice Boddice said he did not accept that preliminary work would take so long.
‘I don’t think you have to worry that she’s served too much time even on the manslaughter on the basis of what is terrible neglect,’ he told Ms Morreau.
‘The allegation is months and months of neglect supported by the extreme lack of weight of the child at death.’
Justice Boddice said it was alleged White – a mother of seven – committed reckless murder by depriving Willow of food and the necessities of life for some time so that she was significantly underweight and suffering “obvious signs of extended neglect” when she died.
Expert evidence suggested Willow was half of what would be the lowest acceptable weight for her age, had stopped growing about eight months before her death and that her severe malnutrition would have been obvious.
Justice Boddice refused bail, finding White had a compelling reason to flee Queensland as she faced a mandatory life sentence if convicted of murder and her children live outside the state.
Willow Dunn’s murder-accused stepmother Shannon Leigh White (centre) has been refused bail