It did not take long for the boy’s mother to realise that she did not much like him after all.
She had begged for her family to return the three-year-old to her care after losing him to them when he was just a few weeks old.
But once he was back, she found that he “pushed my buttons” and reminded her too much of his father.
“Don’t get me wrong, I did love the boy,” she later told police.
“But there was a part of me that hated him because he looked like his father, or maybe because he was his father’s child, I don’t know.”
In the end, the hate won out.
The then 40-year-old woman and her partner variously slammed the little boy’s head in a wardrobe door, beat him with a wooden spoon, stuffed a plastic ball into his mouth and strapped it with duct tape and stuffed him into an ice-filled Esky and sat on the lid over a three-month period in 2014.
Some time between the evening of August 2 and the morning of August 3, 2014, by means unknown, they put him out of his misery altogether.
Forensic pathologists found that he died of cardiac arrest after a blunt force spinal injury caused by rapidly accelerating and decelerating forces, such as his head moving forwards and backwards quickly.
On Thursday, Justice Peter Johnson sentenced the woman to 44 years in jail with a non-parole period of 33 years, and her 48-year-old partner to 40 years with a non-parole period of 30 years.
The pair had admitted to the abuse, but claimed he died after tripping over dog leads on an excursion to their local park in Oberon.
But a jury did not accept this had occurred, following evidence that witnesses saw only the couple and their daughter at the park on the day in question, and that the daughter had tripped over the dog leads.
Police had also overheard the woman’s partner telling her, “You’ve got to stick to that” after she told her brother that story in a phone call that was covertly recorded.
The boy had been living happily with his relatives in Sydney until June 2014 when his mother insisted upon his return.
“When he came to Oberon he looked just like his father and she wanted to kill his father because he had an affair with another woman,” Justice Johnson noted in his sentencing remarks.
The boy’s father had died of cancer in 2010. The mother remarked to police: “It got him before I did.”
Psychologists found that she suffered from depression, had been abused as a child and was possibly transferring her anger at her former partner onto the child, which Justice Johnson found to be the most “grotesque and cruel feature” of her conduct towards her son.
He took into account in his sentencing decision the abuse to which the boy had been subjected in the two months leading up to his death.
“The child’s capacity to resist was significantly reduced because of the physical and psychological torment which he had suffered,” Justice Johnson said.
“He was exceedingly vulnerable.”
As the boy’s mother returned to the cells, family members called from the stands: “Good. Hope you never get out”.
When she was gone, they began to cry.