Hemi Burke was beaten by his babysitter for two hours. Picture: Contributed
Hemi Burke was beaten by his babysitter for two hours. Picture: Contributed

Baby killer could be soon freed

THE parents of a little boy beaten to death by his babysitter in one of Queensland's worst child homicide cases will present the parole board with tens of thousands of signatures in a bid to keep his killer from being released.

Matthew Ireland with toddler Hemi Goodwin-Burke, whom he beat to death.
Matthew Ireland with toddler Hemi Goodwin-Burke, whom he beat to death.

Matthew James Ireland, who beat 18-month-old toddler Hemi Goodwin Burke for two hours in 2015, severing his brain stem, rupturing organs, fracturing bones and inflicting 78 separate bruises, is eligible for parole now after serving just four years behind bars.

"Because he was on remand for more than two years, he's only been in jail with access to rehabilitation programs for 17 months," Hemi's father Shane Burke told The Courier-Mail.

"There is no way 17 months is enough time to rehabilitate a child killer. We believe he still poses a threat to the community.

"This was not some sort of bad accident. He took Hemi's life through multiple violence acts."

Hemi's mother, Kerri-Ann, said the severing of her son's brain stem would have taken a blow equivalent to "the force of a car accident".

"He was never going to survive that," she said.

Shane and Kerri-Ann left their son with Ireland, a trusted friend, so Kerri Ann could get treatment for a back injury in Brisbane.

But Ireland bashed the little boy in a drunken rage. He was charged with murder but pleaded guilty to manslaughter - a plea deal that blindsided the little boy's parents.

 

He was sentenced in 2017 to eight and a half years jail with a non-parole period of four years. With time served, he was eligible for parole on May 24.

Shane and Kerri-Ann have been given 21 days to write a submission that will be considered by the parole board. They have asked to make their submission in person.

They will also present a petition - signed by more than 25,000 people - calling for Ireland's continued incarceration.

"Our baby was violently pushed, punched and kicked in a sustained and vicious attack by a full grown man … 78 bruises, ruptured internal organs, fractured bones and a severed brain stem. And his killer is going to be set free after only FOUR YEARS? HOW IS THIS FAIR?" the online petition says.

"This is a matter of public safety. We cannot let this convicted child killer into our community where he could violently take another child's life."

Shane said the response to the petition - which has been in circulation for just two weeks - has been "absolutely amazing".

Mackay couple Kerri-Ann Goodwin and Shane Burke have been given 21 days to write a submission that will be considered by the parole board. They have asked to make their submission in person. Picture: Daryl Wright
Mackay couple Kerri-Ann Goodwin and Shane Burke have been given 21 days to write a submission that will be considered by the parole board. They have asked to make their submission in person. Picture: Daryl Wright

 

"We're over the moon with the support," he said.

"It's been great. The more signatures the better. I'd really like to get up to 30,000 or 40,000 - surely that would carry some weight."

Hemi's death was one of a number of child homicides used to justify a change in sentencing laws.

The new laws came about after a report by the Queensland Sentencing Advisory Council found sentences for the manslaughter of a child did not reflect community expectations.

The Courier-Mail had spent more than two years highlighting lenient sentences for child killers and campaigning for change.

Offenders sentenced for the manslaughter of a child under 12 will now be subject to a new aggravating factor that will see sentences increased.

"This reform will ensure the community can have confidence that courts are focusing on the defencelessness and vulnerability of the child victim when sentencing an offender for child manslaughter," Attorney-General Yvette D'Ath said at the time.

The Queensland Parole Board yesterday said it would not be possible for Hemi's parents to present their submission in person.

"The operating restraints of Parole Board Queensland mean that it is not able to accommodate oral submissions made by victims and or their families in person," a statement from the Board said.



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