Maree Mavis Crabtree, a Gold Coast mother who has been charged with murdering two of her children and gaining financial benefit from their insurance payouts.
Maree Mavis Crabtree, a Gold Coast mother who has been charged with murdering two of her children and gaining financial benefit from their insurance payouts.

Dad’s pain at losing kids to alleged killer mum

THE father of two disabled children allegedly murdered by their mother, has broken his silence.

The Courier-Mail can reveal Mark Crabtree tried to have his son placed in the care of a guardian just months before the 26-year-old died.

Mr Crabtree successfully applied for his son Jonathan to be placed into adult care in 2016, only for his ex-wife to appeal the decision and win custody.

Months later Jonathan was dead.

Maree Crabtree, 51, was charged this week with the murder of Jonathan as well as their daughter Erin, 18, in 2012.

She is accused of forcing the children to take prescription medication then portraying their deaths as suicide as she claimed life insurance payouts worth about $1 million. In addition to murder, Crabtree is charged with fraud offences and torturing another female relative, 25.

"I loved Erin and Jonathan, of course I do. I've always loved them," Mr Crabtree said yesterday. "They're my kids and I'm heartbroken at the death of my kids. It's a horrible situation, it's terrible."

It can now be revealed that Mr Crabtree and police held grave fears for Jonathan after the death of his sister in 2012.

Erin and Jonathan Crabtree.
Erin and Jonathan Crabtree.

They supported an application for the Queensland office of the Adult Guardians, now known as the Public Guardian, to place Jonathan in adult care.

Maree Crabtree appealed the decision in the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal and despite evidence from police officers who said they held serious concerns for Jonathan's welfare, he was returned to his mother.

Generally, anyone involved in family care disputes cannot be named while they are still alive.

Jonathan's death renewed efforts by detectives to bring Crabtree to justice.

A source close to the investigation said some detectives had never believed that Erin's death was a suicide and were desperate for Jonathan to be taken from his mother's care.

"The system failed him," the source said.

"Erin's death was originally ruled a suicide but there were plenty of people who didn't believe that."

Erin's death was still being reviewed by detectives and the State Coroner when Jonathan died in July last year.

His death sparked a renewed probe by police, culminating in this week's dramatic arrest of Crabtree at a Brisbane house.

Jonathan’s dad Mark says he tried to save his son.
Jonathan’s dad Mark says he tried to save his son.

Outside his Sydney home yesterday, Mr Crabtree spoke about his children.

"I'm upset about it. I just don't know what to say about it all. I'm as shocked as everyone, that's about all I can say," he said.

Mr Crabtree praised "the men and women of the Queensland police for all their hard work".

"They have done a tremendous job," he said.

"I just want to let the police do their job.

"I have the faith in the police and that the police will come through."

Supreme Court documents from a dispute between Maree Crabtree and a man with whom she formed a relationship after she split from Mr Crabtree in 1994, reveal new details of her background.

In the late 1990s, Mark Crabtree regularly visited his children at the home they shared with his ex-wife in the southern Sydney suburb of Peakhurst, and paid child support of $212 a week, the court documents show.

Maree Crabtree was also receiving a carer's pension of $385 a week at the time. She had inherited the property from her uncle, war veteran Milne Graham, in 1989. Her elderly mother Sylvia Graham lived in a granny flat there.

Maree Crabtree with her children.
Maree Crabtree with her children.

In March 1999, Crabtree began a relationship with television engineer Dominic Ziino. She had initiated sex with him in 1998, when he visited to fix her TV set, according to the documents.

Mr Ziino proposed to her but she refused to marry him and their relationship ended acrimoniously in March 2002. Mr Ziino placed a caveat on the house.

The house was destroyed by fire in January 2003, and Crabtree sold the property for land value of $570,000 on July 1, 2003.

Mr Ziino took her to court in 2005, claiming they had lived in a de facto relationship and he wanted some of the money he had given her returned, including the $51,000 he had paid off her mortgage.

Meanwhile, Crabtree had moved on and become engaged to a man at Muswellbrook in the Hunter Valley, and claimed her relationship with Mr Ziino was business only.

"At the least, they were - to use a somewhat old-fashioned phrase - having an affair," Justice John McLaughlin said in his judgment.

He found that they had not lived as a de facto couple but he ordered Crabtree to repay her former boyfriend $79,000.

Maree Crabtree.
Maree Crabtree.
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