John Erik Ashfield
1987 - August 6,1993
Find A Grave Memorial

John Ashfield was accused of touching his three year old sister in a "bad" way, when he returned home from school one day, his mother, Gunn-Britt Ashfield, who was 25 at the time and her boyfriend, Austin Allan Hughes, who was 20 at the time, decided he would not "get away with it". John's punishment, for something he didn't do, was to be beaten so badly that he would die from his injuries. Gunn-Britt and Austin took the tiny boy into his bedroom after confronting him in the kitchen and Austin kicked him, slapped him and sent him to his room. John was punched with their fists, beaten with an aluminum rod from used to hold up curtains and a hammer was used on his head. John was begging for them to stop:

"I'm really sorry, don't do this to me, I'm sore, I'm sorry"

At that point, Austin teased him and said he screams like a little girl and made him wear a dress, John begged them to take the dress off of him. They did not, nor did they stop beating him. Relief came only when he went unconscious. Britt decided to give him a cold shower and when that didn't revive him, a hot shower was given, he did not revive at that point either. Many hours went by and John was not taken to the hospital before Gunn told her other children to lie and tell the police that John had been attacked by some teenagers walking through the park. John's eight year old brother, Daniel, backed up the story, on television:

"We were going to buy milk and bread when four boys said,
"Come here. We want to bash you up"

The police didn't believe the story since John was cold and blood was coming out of his nose. John was taken to a hospital in Sydney. Doctor Barry Wilkins said that there were more than 100 bruises on John which suggested that he had been repeated beaten and it was not an accident. John's hands were swollen and bruised, showing that he had tried to defend himself, he also had a very serious brain injury. When John died on August 6, Gunn and Austin were both arrested and charged with his murder.

Brian Ashfield, John's biological father, had tried several times to get custody of John. Though Brian had a criminal past and was, at one time addicted to Heroin, he had been in rehab and was clean as well as being in a stable relationship. Brian made it clear to DoCS that Gunn was unstable and that she was a violent woman and that the children should not be with her. Even with all his efforts to clean up his life and live the right way, DoCS ignored him and would not even allow him to see his son. Gunn had even told DoCS that she was violent and wanted them to remove her children because she thought she could be violent towards them, they even ignored that information.

Andrew Ashfield, John's Uncle, said:

"DOCS knew she was violent and knew that she was trouble, but they didn't
take the kids until after she
killed one of them"

About two years after his son died, Brian Ashfield was killed. Brian had never recovered from the death of his son.

Austin and Gunn were each sentenced to 21 years in prison for killing John. After appealing their sentences, they were each given a 19 years sentence with a minimum of 14 years to be served. Neither of them would serve their full sentence. Isn't is disgusting how people can kill a child and then expect others to be forgiving and lenient when giving them their punishment? How can someone feel a 21 year sentence is too harsh when a child will never get to live their life and their surviving family members will be in a kind of living prison for the rest of their lives because they will never get over the loss of that child? The justice system in this world sucks. We might as well come right out and say that the lives of children are not worth anything.

Gunn and Austin had been in prison for 14 years when they applied for parole. John's little sister, Melissa, did not want her mother to get out of prison:

"I have not seen my mother since I was 11 years old. The last time I saw her,
in prison, I pulled her
hair and slapped her. I have flashbacks to what happened.
She tried to blame me. She tried to get us
to help her bash John. She tried to say
that John touched me. He never touched me"

In December of 2009, Austin Hughes was released on parole and was said to be going to live on a farm with his Uncle. Austin was banned from working with children at all. Austin had hopes that John's family would some day give him forgiveness for what he did. John's sister Melissa, who was 19 years old by this time, told reporters that he family would not be be able to celebrate Christmas that year knowing that the murderer of her brother had been set free:

"Me and my family won't be celebrating Christmas at all. It's going to be screwed up.
But, at the end of the day, he's not going to ruin our lives. We're going to move on as
much as we can. We'll never forget, we'll never forgive but we have to move on"

In April of 2011, Gunn, who had changed her name to Angelic Karstrom, was paroled and walked out of prison after serving 18 years of her 19 year sentence. Gunn did not talk to anyone as she was lead to a police vehicle waiting for her which would transport her to a secret corrective services approved residence where she was expected to live for the next year. It was reported that Gunn would be heavily monitored for that year and that she would be wearing an ankle bracelet. Gunn, who was 43 years old at the time of her release, had been released so that she COULD be monitored for a time which would also include testing for drugs and alcohol and have a strict curfew. Gunn was also restricted from seeing Austin at all. Melissa had told the parole board that her mother was a sick, twisted women and she yelled at her mother through a video link:

"For someone who's so remorseful. She says she remembers what she did. But when I
saw her when
I was 17, she said that she can't remember, that she forgot, I'm just frustrated.
I'm Angry. I'd say to Angelic
Karstrom to rot in hell. She's not remorseful"

Annette Ashfield, who is Gunn's sister-in-law said that she had not changed and should not be paroled. Lawyers said it was not in the best public interest to release her early. Some family members left the courtroom when it was stated that Gunn would be set free. The parole board agreed with her Gunn's lawyer who said that releasing her early was the only way to keep her supervised for the last year of her sentence. If she were to stay in jail for another year, she would be free to go where she wanted and not tell anyone.

Melissa was not forgiving of what her mother did and wishes she would never have been let out:

"I can never forget what she did. I can never forgive her and I will always hate her.
How can you look at your own flesh and blood and be able to murder? I put my son
to bed and think, how can you do that? At the end of the day, that's your child, you
make a choice to have kids. I always knew she would get out, even though it makes me
angry and it hurts me, I need to put it behind me. I will never forget, but I have to put it
behind me and focus on my family"

There were many teenagers outside of the courtroom on September 8, 19913 when Austin and Gunn were taken in to the courtroom. The teenagers yelled at them and called them names, some held up signs.

In January of 2012, Austin Hughes was arrested and bail was refused, for breaching his parole conditions by being with a woman and her children for more than 14 days in a row and not reporting his change of address. In March, Austin was granted bail under the condition that he go to live with one of his co-workers. John's family was very upset about the decision:

"It's very annoying. We've been let down by the justice system. He's killed a child, been left alone
others and still he gets bail. He's never once said sorry for what he did"
Annette Ashfield

Austin had changed his name to Blain Lopez Smith and was granted bail after Justice Robert Allan Hulme said he had no choice:

"When the brief of evidence is served, it may be the situation will change but I can only deal
with the matter on the basis of the material the prosecution has sought to place before me to date"

A police report stated that Austin had been left alone with one of the children of his girlfriend at least three different times. Austin also reportedly drove a that was not registered with the police, for him to be driving, though lawyers for Austin said that it was not true.

Also in January of 2012, a family who had taken Austin into their lives was very upset by the fact that he had been able to change his identity and managed to be accepted into their community. Austin's new girlfriends mother was so upset to find out about his past and said that she felt betrayed and horrified that this man was allowed to get a new name and come into the lives of children the way he did. Considering him to be a nice person and a good friend, she had hired him and eventually introduced him to her daughter. The truth eventually came out and she was disgusted by a person being able to change their name and hide their violent past.

In June of 2012, Austin managed to have his court case delayed and was granted another adjournment after having been in court seven different times for breaching his parole conditions. An advocate for the victims said:

"It's a shocking tactic and shows that we have a functioning legal system but not a justice system"
Howard Brown - Victims Of Crime Assistance League

A spokeswoman for the NSW Department Of Corrective Services said that Austin's parole could be revoked if he was convicted of breaching his parole even after it expires in August. Austin entered pleas of not guilty to charges that he did not comply with his parole obligations. Austin's lawyer said that Austin had hired a barrister and had not had a chance to meet with him yet and asked for a continuance, it was granted.

As of today's date, July 8, 2012, I am
unable to find any information about Austin's being returned to jail for a parole violation or if he was allowed to remain free. If he was living with a woman with children, I hope she had the sense to go to court and tell the truth and that he was sent back to prison to finish out his sickening sentence of only 19 years.

There was a call to prevent criminals from changing their names:

Serious offenders can't change their names
22 Feb, 2012 03:00 AM

Child killer Austin Allan Hughes is a prime example of why criminals will be banned from changing their names, according to NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell.

Mr O’Farrell made the comment yesterday after announcing new legislation to prevent murderers, rapists and other dangerous criminals from adopting new names.

Hughes changed his name by deed poll towards the end of 16 years in prison for his role alongside Gunn-Britt Ashfield in the brutal murder of six-year-old Nowra boy John Ashfield in 1993.

His new name was only revealed when the 38-year-old was arrested and charged with breaching the Child Protection Act after it was alleged he had spent time with a woman and her two children at Kempsey.

Discussing the laws in Parliament yesterday, Mr O’Farrell highlighted Hughes’ ability to change his name to Blain Lopez Smith.

‘‘His real identity only became known after the woman’s sister became suspicious,’’ Mr O’Farrell said. ‘‘Allowing criminals to change their name makes it easier for them to avoid detection and that puts the community and their victims at risk.

’’Under existing laws, a convicted criminal cannot be prevented from changing his or her name.

Last month, the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages told the Mercury criminal background checks were not conducted as part of the name change process. But under the new laws, a list of serious offenders will be sent to the registry.

The registry will automatically refuse any name-change application by serious sex offenders, inmates, parolees and forensic patients that hasn’t received the written approval of a supervising authority.

Offenders under supervision will also be prevented from lodging a name-change application if there is a reasonable likelihood they will use a new name to avoid being monitored.

During two bail hearings last month, it was alleged Hughes had been living with the Kempsey family since last October, and had breached the Child Protection Act by spending more than 14 consecutive days with the woman’s son and daughter.

Hughes also allegedly failed to record his change of address.

Bail was refused and Hughes was remanded in custody until March 8.

Under the proposed changes, people will also only be able to change their name three times in a lifetime.


Searching for updates to find out if Austin had gone back to prison for parole violation, today is June 4, 2014 and I am unable to find anything to say that he did or didn't go back to prison.

UPDATE: September 29, 2014

I received an e-mail with an update leading to the following:

AUSTIN ALLAN HUGHES aka "Blain Lopez Smith"

Age: 38 years old (2012)

State: NSW - Kempsey/ South West Rocks

Sentence: Sentenced in 1994 to 21 yrs jail- reduced to 19 yrs on appeal-14 yrs non parole. Freed in December 2009 from Silverwater Jail.

Offence/Other: Austin Allan Hughes/ Child Killer..Convicted of bashing his girlfriends 6 yr old son (John Ashfield) to death. Hughes and the childs mother, Gunn-Britt Ashfield  (AKA- Anjelic Karstrom) bashed John then placed a telephone book to the childs head and repeatedly hit him with a hammer. John died from massive head injuries in hospital the next day.

December 2009 - Hughes released-to spend 3 months at a corrective services halfway house in Kempsey,

Update - "AVO fight with pram" (21-9-2013) - Convicted child killer Blain Lopez Smith, formerly Austin Allan Hughes, was seen pushing a pram with a child on his way to an AVO hearing in Kempsey Local Court on Monday. Smith was sentenced to 21 years, reduced to 19 on appeal, with a minimum of 14 years, after pleading guilty to the murder of his girlfriend Gunn-Britt Ashfield's son John..the matter is back in court on November 12.

News (7-1-2012) - Convicted child killer "Austin Allan Hughes", charged with breaching his parole, after he was allegedly found living under another name with a woman and her two children in Kempsey, internet was used by family to find his real identity.

News (7-1-2012 ) - Convicted Nowra child killer Austin Allan Hughes, charged with breaching his parole conditions, has been refused bail in Port Macquarie Local Court. He will be in custody at a remand centre in Kempsey until his video appearance before Magistrate Thomas Hodgson on Monday.

Thank you to Rebecca for sending me this update.

Death occurred in Australia

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