Dean Shillingsworth
  February 25, 2005 - October 11, 2007
Find A Grave Memorial
On October 17, 2007, some children playing near a pond in a park in Mandurama Reserve at Ambarvale, New South Wales, Australia found a suitcase that contained the body of a child.

Rachel Pfitzner had three children in all and each of her children had a different biological father. Dean was in the middle between his older half sister, who was eight and younger half brother who was six at the time of his death.


Only four months prior to his death, Rachel Pfitzner had moved into a new home, a public housing estate in Pindarus Place, Rosemeadow, with her children, including Dean. Calls to The NSW Department of Community Services were made concerning the welfare of Dean and that prompted a court order to be made and custody of Dean was transferred to his grandmother. Dean had been living with his paternal grandparents in Tamworth, up until June when he had gone for a visit with is mother. Rachel had never brought home from that visit. When police went to talk to her about the court order, Rachel said that Dean was already in the custody of the DOCS. That was, of course, a lie.

Between 11:00 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. on October 11, 2007, Rachel had shaken Dean and thrown him to the floor. She believed she had killed him so she wrapped his body in plastic, stuff him inside of a suitcase and dumped his body into the pond where his body was discovered by the children six days later. Four days later, Rachel, who was on parole, was arrested and charged with murder. Rachel's father said that he had only been able to see his grandson three times since he had been
born. It had been about six weeks since he had last seen him he said:

"I never got the chance to cuddle him once, nor to hear him call me poppy"

Neighbors had thought the way Rachel had behaved was odd, though none of them suspected she would kill her child:

"He was very quiet; we saw him once or twice, but never with his mother when she left the house 
to go to the shops. She was always pushing the baby in the pram and had the little girl with her. My 
son said he was obsessive. He woke up one night and was so hungry he ate a whole loaf of bread. 
We had little to do with them. Most times it was through the little girl, when she would go around to
neighbors' houses with a note asking for cigarettes. Other times she would be playing on her own
in the street on her bike. We had not seen anyone at the house since last Sunday. Then two days 
ago police came to my house asking questions, that's when we realized. I'm still pretty numb"
Greg Massey - neighbor

Kevin Greene, a Community Services Minister, defended the way the case was handled. He said that several calls made to their helping did not indicated that there was a threat against the life of Dean:

"The reports to the Department of Community Service, DOCS help line that in some way involved the 
young boy, I'm clearly advised by the director general of DOCS, that none of these reports could 
reasonably be assessed that the child's life was in danger. "I'm not minimizing the seriousness o
r the tragedy of this case. I'm not suggesting these reports were unimportant"

The town continue to mourn for Dan and the Reverend David Cole from the Rosemeadow Anglican Church said that he would leave a service for Dean with three simple prayers:

"One is for the family who's grieving, so Dean's family, simply that they will find the courage and the 
strength to face the future without Dean. We are going to pray for the community, that they make 
sensible choices from this point on. And then, just for Dean himself, we are going to ask that God 
treat him with mercy and kindness"

Dean's biological father, Paul Shillingsworth, was in jail at the time of his death, for breaking parole on a bodily harm sentence. Paul had applied for a transfer so that he could attend the funeral of his son. Beverly says that Paul was a violent man and that there had been instances of domestic violence in the relationship between Rachel and Paul.

Paul's family said he was a talented, traditional dancer in a troupe that included several of his brothers and they had performed at many events including the opening of the Mount Druitt Medical Center. They did not see the violent man that Beverly saw. Both sides of the family did agree that Dean was a bright, lively little boy. Beverly said that his favorite words were food and biderman:

"He loved me, I loved him. I was very, very close to him. He was a normal two-year-old. The terrible twos. 
He loved Chicken In a Biskit. I used to go over there every Sunday. I would take enough for all the kids 
but he always managed to find a box himself. He was very smart."

Donald Shillingsworth said that his nephew loved his toy motorcycle, jumping castle and jumping on the trampoline:

 "He had everything, he got what he wanted"

When Paul was let out of jail, Rachel's family was disgusted at the way he was treated, like a hero. Paul had been in jail on charges of sexual assault, against Rachel. A family member spoke out:

"In the lead-up to his release from jail last week, she had been terrified for her safety. It had been made 
clear to her Shillingsworth would be coming back the moment he was out. Psychologically, she 
had felt tortured" 

The same family member said that they were unable to attend the memorial service held for Dean, due to threats made against them. Detective Superintendent, Geoff Beresford said that they were making rounds, patrolling and that there has been a bad history between the two families of Dean.

Rachel's mother, Beverly,  said that she had called the DOCS to get some help for her to raise Dean properly, she said she was told that there were not enough resources to help her daughter. Beverly said she had been having trouble bonding with Dean because he had been living with his grandmother, Ann Coffey, who had custody of him for the last year:

"What can we do about it? We haven't got the kind of resources for that"
DOCS worker

Rachel had visited the DOCS office earlier in the year and was asking for help and advice on how she could regain custody of her son. With no help available, Rachel decided to just keep Dean after a scheduled visit on June 7. From the start, Rachel had trouble raising him. Dean's grandfather, Edmund Capan said that at least three checks were made concerning Dean, in the month of July after they contacted police to say that Rachel had not returned him from her visit. Edmund told
police that he was concerned for Dean's well being:

"We knew she couldn't handle him" 

Edmund also said that something more should have been done to help his grandson:

"They DOCS should have done something. They could have went out there and could have helped 
in some way"

Beverly disagreed with what Edmund had said:

"I wouldn't say she wasn't coping, she was struggling. She was able to cook meals for them every night. 
She fed them and clothed them."

Kevin Greene said that action was taken, though he wouldn't say what type of action it was:

"DOCS did receive a call to its help line and the call was assessed and there was some action taken. 
Sadly, there is no perfect child protection system in the world but we want to do the best we can to 
continue to improve the child protection system."

On October 29, 2008, Rachel was in court where she said that she thought Dean was dead when she stuck him into the suitcase and put it into the pond. Belinda Rigg, Rachel's attorney asked Diane little, the Forensic Pathologist if his death happened the way his mother said it had and then she told Rachel's account of what happened. Rachel cried while she listened to her attorney say that she had shaken her son, thrown him to the ground and he had wet himself, become
unresponsive, made gurgling sounds and had foam coming from his mouth. Belinda then said that Dean's hand had frozen into a claw and when she checked, Rachel thought he had no heartbeat. Rachel then attempted to do CPR on Dean. 

Diane Little said there was a possibility that Dean had been alive when he was stuffed into the suitcase, however, since he had been dead for at least a week, his body was badly decomposed and the actual cause of his death could not be determined. Diane also said that a lack of bleeding in his brain suggests that he had not been shaken to death. She said that he could possibly have suffocated.

"Is one of the possibilities in this case, as you see it, that death could have been caused by the placing of the child, who appeared to be deceased but wasn't, into the plastic bag and then into the suitcase" 
Belinda Rigg

"If he was completely unconscious but not yet dead, 
that's a possibility" 
Diane Little 

Edmund Caban was outside the courtroom and said that he and his family were relieved that this case was finally going to go to trial. He also said they were all looking forward to the truth coming out. 

"That's the one thing I hope for" 

Edmund said that it had been a long, troubling struggle for him and his family:

 "but, we are getting there"

Rachel did not enter a plea and was held without bail for trail. Her trial date was set for December 5, 2008 where she would face the  NSW Supreme Court.

Rachel was in court on December 12, 2008. Rachel appeared in court though a video, instead of in person and only answered questions, such as "Can you see'' with a short "Yep", from the Silverwater prison for women. Ugo Parente, her attorney was pleading for compassion for his client. Dean's fathers family was pleading for justice:

"I just ask that she be shown a bit of compassion at this time. It is a sensitive matter and it has to be 
dealt with fairly"
Ugo Parente

 "We just want justice for the family"
Rita Wright - Dean's Aunt

Rachel is held in a protection cell in the Silverwater Woman's prison, at her own request. She contacts her mother on a regular basis. Paul Shillingsworth is also in prison, once again, after being release on parole that was revoked after new charges were filed against him. Rachel was due to appear in court, once again through video link, on February 6, 2009. 


Dean Shillingsworth mum pleads guilty to murder

August 18, 2009 10:13am

A WOMAN has pleaded guilty to the murder of her two-year-old son, whose body was found in a suitcase dumped in a Sydney pond.

Rachel Pfitzner, 27, pleaded guilty today in the NSW Supreme Court to the murder of Dean Shillingsworth on October 11, 2007 at Rosemeadow.

His body was found in a suitcase pulled from a duck pond at Ambarvale, in Sydney's south-west.

In June, Pfitzner had pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter.

But the Crown representative then told the judge he was not in a position to say whether that plea would be accepted.

When the murder charge was read out today, Pfitzner admitted the more serious offense.

Crown prosecutor Mark Tedeschi QC told Justice Robert Allan Hulme a statement of agreed facts would be forwarded to him before the sentencing hearing.

That hearing has been listed for October 8.

The Herald Sun

Thank you to Emma for alerting me to this update. I am so glad that so many people are willing to help me keep these pages up to date with the latest news about the cases of these children.


Body-in-suitcase mum loses appeal
December 16, 2010

The body of two-year-old Dean Shillingsworth was found in a suitcase in a duck pond in Sydney.  

A Sydney woman who murdered her two-year-old son and stuffed his body in a suitcase has lost an appeal against her jail sentence.

In December 2009 Rachael Pfitzner was jailed for at least 19 years after pleading guilty to murdering her son Dean Shillingsworth.

The todder's body was found floating in a suitcase in a duck pond at Ambarvale in Sydney's south west.

When she was sentenced, the New South Wales Supreme Court heard that Rachel Pfitzner first choked the child and that she loathed and punished him.

Today a three-judge panel has dismissed an appeal against her sentence.

The judges ruled that although it is severe, it is not excessive.

An ombudsman's investigation into the 2007 death found the Department of Community Services failed to protect the boy even though it had been warned that he was at risk. 

Thank you to Ashleigh for this update.

Return To Dean's Story
Read about a memorial and Dean's funeral

Death occurred in Australia

If you do not like what you see printed on this page, please see my DISCLAIMER statement. THANK YOU!

For information about how to report child abuse, please click the link below and you will be taken to a page that has an alphabetical, state by state listing of how to report child abuse for which state you are looking for and for some other countries.

Visit my child abuse quilt to see other places about preventing child abuse.

This page will open up in a new window so you won't lose your place while
visiting the Angels on my site.

Call this number to report child abuse ANY WHERE in the United States!

1-800-4-A-Child  1-800-422-4453

Child Abuse Intro
Child Abuse Links 1
It Is A Human Life

7 Steps To Prevention
Child Abuse Links 2
Child Abuse Poetry
Child Abuse Songs
Report Abuse
Child Abuse Links 3
Child Abuse Quilt