Hundreds weep for Darcey Freeman
Article from: Sue Hewitt

February 01, 2009 12:00am

They never knew little Darcey Freeman, but that didn't stop hundreds of people from making the pilgrimage to Melbourne's West Gate Bridge yesterday to mourn the four-year-old's tragic death.

The outpouring of grief for the girl, who was allegedly thrown to her death from the top of the bridge by her father on Thursday, has sparked calls for a public memorial service this week.

Flowers, teddy bears and a doll were left near a memorial for the 35 workers who died when part of the bridge collapsed in 1970, and more than 27,000 people have flooded social networking site Facebook with messages of support for Darcey's family.

Noel Raffelle, his partner Patrice Moorfoot and their children Tahlia, 4, and Anameika, 18 months, of Werribee, west of Melbourne, were among those who visited the bridge yesterday.

Ms Moorfoot said the tragedy had hit their family hard because Tahlia was the same age as Darcey.

"The whole world is shocked and we share their disbelief," she said. "We came here to reflect on how lucky we are to have our own children."

Witness accounts of the tragedy continue to be revealed, with police now believing the actions of one woman may have saved Darcey's two brothers.

The woman got out of her car and ran shouting at the girl's father, Arthur Freeman, as he allegedly dropped the child from the top of the bridge about 9am on Thursday.

The boys, 6 and 2, were sitting in their father's car as their terrified sister was carried towards the rail, nearly 60m above the water.

It is alleged Mr Freeman got back in his white Toyota LandCruiser and drove off after the woman ran at him.

He was arrested just over an hour later when he was found in a distressed state in the foyer of the Commonwealth Law Courts.

The theory that Mr Freeman may have been planning to kill all three children is believed to have been strengthened by a chilling telephone call about the time of Darcey's fatal fall.

Police sources confirmed a conversation between Mr Freeman and his estranged wife, Peta, but would not discuss what was said.

No funeral plans have yet been released.

Documents relating to West Gate victim Darcey Freeman stolen from judge's car

Herald Sun
February 07, 2009 12:01am

Sensitive documents stolen from judge's car 
Related to West Gate victim Darcey Freeman 
Police make appeal for witnesses

SENSITIVE documents relating to West Gate victim Darcey Freeman and her father have been stolen from a judge's car in the city. 

The documents were taken from a car belonging to Family Court Chief Justice Diana Bryant. 

The theft, on Thursday night, occurred only hours before Darcey was buried at a private funeral yesterday, the Herald Sun reports.

Darcey, 4, was allegedly thrown from the West Gate Bridge by her father Arthur on January 29, which was to have been her first day at school. 

The Herald Sun believes the theft of the briefcase, which contained several files, did not involve forced entry. 

The car may have been left open in Little Collins St, about 40m west of Spring St. 

Police have been told the theft occurred between 7pm and midnight, but have not found security footage to identify the culprit. 

A search of nearby lanes did not find the briefcase and police have made an urgent appeal for witnesses. 

It is not known whether the thief knew of the contents of the briefcase. 

The documents include transcripts of the Freemans' case. 

It is not known if the material contains psychological reports. 

In a statement released on Thursday, Darcey's relatives said the justice system had ignored their fears about her safety and had failed to prevent her death. Chief Justice Bryant confirmed a Family Court judge's car had been broken into and personal items, including a briefcase, stolen. 

"There were no court files, but the papers included a transcript," she said. 

Earlier, Chief Justice Bryant revealed she had reviewed all relevant reports relating to the Darcey Freeman case. 

She was to hand over all available documents to the federal Attorney-General next week, after he called for a review of the Freeman matter. 

"We'll co-operate in whatever way in making available to him all of the material and events that occurred," she said on ABC radio. 

But she said the judicial system was not told of concerns that Darcey was at risk. 

Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland has asked his department to review the family's case. 

"(This area of the law) is an extremely difficult area, and if there is anything we can learn from this tragedy to improve how the system is run, we will not hesitate to take the necessary action," Mr McClelland said in a statement. 

Victorian Premier John Brumby welcomed the review. 

"Anybody who has family or friends who dealt with (this area of the law), you know the system isn't perfect," he said. 

"I think it's very timely to review this case and to see the way in which it was managed. 

"It's a federal responsibility and I think the sooner that review's undertaken, the better." 

Court did not hear concerns about Darcey's safety: judge
February 6, 2009 

The head of Australia's Family Court says relatives of the young girl thrown from Melbourne's West Gate Bridge did not take their concerns about the child's safety to the court.

The chief justice of the Family Court of Australia, Diana Bryant QC, made the rare move into public debate after relatives of Darcey Freeman accused the court system of failing their family.

Darcey, 4, died after plunging almost 60 metres from the bridge in Melbourne last week. Her father Arthur Phillip Freeman is facing a murder charge after allegedly throwing her to her death.

It's believed Darcey was farewelled at a private funeral service in Melbourne on Friday.

The day before her death, Darcey's parents had reached an agreement in the Federal Magistrates Court over the amount of time Mr Freeman could spend with his three children.

Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland has asked his department to review the family's case.

Chief Justice Bryant said the court orders were made after an agreement between Darcey's parents was reached.

"The court obviously has to deal with issues of risk concerning children but it can only do so when parties raise those issues of risk with the court," she told ABC Radio.

"In this particular case ... the orders were made by consent. That is, they were not made by a decision of a judicial officer."

Chief Justice Bryant said a judge could refuse to make orders by consent if they were deemed not to be in the interests of the child.

"In this case ... the parties did not present to the judicial officer concerned, as part of their case, that this child was at risk of harm in the father's care," she said.

"The issues for determination were how much time the father should have with the child.

"The parties actually reached agreement about that issue and the judge didn't have to make a decision."

Chief Justice Bryant said no concerns were raised about the children's safety.

"That was not an issue," she said.

"You cannot blame the decision."

She said both parents were in court when the decision between them was reached.

"I would have to assume that if the mother had concerns they would have been raised and she would not have agreed to this decision, this order being made."

Chief Justice Bryant said family breakdown was the second most stressful event people dealt with, after death.

She said court hearings added to the emotional stress surrounding family breakdowns.

Darcey's uncle Tim Barnes issued a statement on Thursday accusing the court system of letting the family down.

"For the past two years, the various authorities have been made aware of our fear for the safety of the children and unfortunately no one would listen," he said.

"We feel the judicial system has failed our family and will continue to fail other families until someone in authority starts to take action."

Mr McClelland said he had asked his department to review the "distressing" case.

"Family law is an extremely difficult area and if there is anything we can learn from this tragedy to improve how the system is run we will not hesitate to take the necessary action," he said in a statement.

Darcey's family has asked The Alannah and Madeline Foundation to set up a trust fund after receiving an overwhelming number of requests from people wishing to donate money.

The fund will be used to assist Darcey's two brothers, Ben and Jack.

The foundation will also be looking into establishing a children's day in Darcey's memory.

Family of Darcey Freeman, Melbourne bridge death girl, speak out. Melbourne four-year-old Darcey Freeman, who loved the Rolf Harris song Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport
February 5, 2009

Sophie Tedmanson in Sydney 

The family of Darcey Freeman, the four-year-old allegedly thrown from a bridge by her father in Melbourne, have called for a national Children’s Day in Australia “to honour all children taken from us too early in their lives”. 

Speaking for the first time since the tragedy, Darcey’s family spoke of their “extreme sense of loss and emptiness”. 

“We are in deep mourning,” the family said in a statement to Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper. “We will never understand the reasons why … sometimes things in life are just not fair.” 

In a touching death notice placed in the newspaper, Darcey’s mother, Peta Freeman, said: "My Darling Daughter. My heart will always be with you, as you will be with me. We will miss you every day and remember you with love and laughter." 

The family said that they hoped Darcey’s death would not be taken in vain and would love to see an annual event “where children have the opportunity to embrace life and enjoy activities whilst having fun with their families”. 

Kevin Rudd, the Prime Minister, embraced the idea and described Darcey's death as “gut wrenching for the entire nation”. 

"People have been really affected by this. Anyone with a touch of humanity in them finds this just unspeakable,” he said. "You just recoil in horror." 

It has been suggested that the proposed Children’s Day could be incorporated into the already existing annual Children’s Week. 

"Out of such an appalling tragedy, how do we turn it to good?" Mr Rudd said. "Cause people to reflect on the protection of little ones ... I think it's a good idea." 

Darcey was allegedly thrown 190ft (57 metres) into a shallow, muddy river, from the busy West Gate bridge during peak hour traffic on January 29. She miraculously survived the fall but died four hours later from massive internal injuries. 

Darcey’s maternal uncles, Tim and Joe Barnes, described their niece as an active girl who played Auskick (a junior version of Australian Rules football), tennis and would spend hours jumping on the trampoline. They spoke of Darcey’s love of dancing and her passion for music, in particular the Rolf Harris classic Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport, which was her favourite song. They also said that she adored her brothers, Ben, 7, and Jack, 2, who are being cared for by their mother, Peta Freeman. 

“Even though she was only four, she was determined and strong-willed,” Tim Barnes told the Herald Sun. “She knew her own mind and was prepared to always stand up for what she believed in.” 

He said that like most young girls, the pretty, blonde Darcey loved clothes and liked to dress in whatever she wanted “even if it meant wearing pink Wellington boots to play tennis”. 

Joe Barnes said that his niece had given the family “a lot of fun”. “She was into everything. She will never be forgotten. She had an effect on everybody,” he said. 

Darcey’s father, Arthur Freeman, an IT professional who was involved in a custody dispute with his estranged wife, has been charged with her murder. The 35-year-old is on suicide watch and has reportedly not uttered a word since being taken into custody. 

Darcey’s family said that they had been overwhelmed by the public support from around the world: “We wish to thank the public for their heartfelt sympathy." 

A public memorial service will be held in honour of Darcey. Her family will also be holding a private memorial service. 

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