Freeman gets life, 32 years non-parole
Arthur Freeman has been sentenced to life with 32 years non parole for throwing his daughter off a bridge.
Man behind the monster
Patrick Carlyon tries to explain the inexplicable – why Arthur Freeman murdered his daughter
Arthur Freeman arrives at court today before being sentenced
Darcey Freeman as a flower girl at a relative’s wedding
UPDATE 12.52pm: THE man who threw his daughter off the West Gate Bridge has been sentenced to life in prison.
Supreme Court Justice Paul Coghlan today sentenced Arthur Phillip Freeman, 37, to life in jail with a non-parole period of 32 years for the murder of four-year-old daughter Darcey as he sought revenge against her mother during a custody battle.
Darcey died hours after being thrown 80m from the bridge by her father on January 29, 2009.
Freeman was found guilty of murdering Darcey by a Supreme Court jury last month.
Today, Freeman showed no reaction throughout the hearing, but had to be pulled from the courtroom by three guards following a bizarre outburst after the sentence was handed down.
Freeman backed into a corner of the dock to avoid guards as he accused an in-law of being implicated in the theft of diamonds from a West Australian mine and Federal Police phone taps, while he also mentioned death threats to himself during the rant.
During a 40-minute statement that had finished moments earlier, Justice Coghlan said Freeman had not shown remorse or even begun to understand the enormity of his brutal crime.
“You are yet to say sorry for what you have done,” he said.
“Your attitude to these matters remain self-centred. I regard your prospects of rehabilitation as bleak.”
Prosecutors had called for Freeman to be jailed for life without parole, while his lawyers had pleaded for a minimum term.
In handing down the life sentence, the judge said he understood the argument that he should be “locked away for ever”, but he was obliged to consider other factors.
“Whatever happens, you will spend what many consider will be the best years of your life in prison,” he said.
But he said he did not think Freeman was “beyond redemption” and took into account good behaviour, family support and references.
The judge also said, “One of the unfortunate features of this case is that others blame themselves”, but the judge said they should not.
“You are responsible for it. And nobody else,” Justice Coghlan said.
“The earliest date you can be released is 29 January 2041, when you will be 67 years old,” the judge said.
Darcey’s mother and Freeman’s ex-wife Peta Barnes showed no emotion at the sentencing, and left the court with supporters without making a statement.
Several members of the jury that convicted Freeman were also in court to hear the verdict.
Arthur Freeman sentenced
Darcey’s death a fundamental breach of trust
Justice Coghlan, in handing down his sentence, said Freeman’s actions were aggravated by an act breaching the basic trust of father and child, and had destroyed the lives of others.
“This was a killing of an innocent child,” he said.
“The circumstances of the killing were horrible.
“The throwing of your four-year-old daughter from a bridge more than 80 metres above the ground could not be more horrible.
“What Darcey’s last thoughts might have been does not bear thinking about, and her death must have been a painful and protracted one.”
He said Freeman’s actions were “a fundamental breach of trust” and an attack on the institution of family.
He said the death was made worse because Freeman had killed Darcey in the presence of his two young sons, Ben, 6, and Jack, 2.
“It can only be concluded that you used your daughter in an attempt to hurt your former wife as profoundly as possible.”
And he said Freeman could not have chosen a more public place for the murder act, saying it had offended the sensibility of the entire community.
He said the lives of Darcey’s mother and many others would “never be the same”.
In describing the impact on others, Justice Coghlan said emergency services, witnesses and the community as a whole had been affected by Darcey’s death, by having the events “forced upon them”
Freeman was not mentally ill
Justice Coghlan said Freeman’s defence largely attempted to push for a non-parole period based on “impaired mental function” which would have reduced his moral culpability.
But quoting Dr Lester Walton’s expert advice, the judge said, “there is minimal evidence … that Freeman was suffering from mental illness that he would have realised his conduct was wrong”.
And while no-one knew what Freeman was thinking at the time he threw Darcey from the bridge, Dr Walton said in evidence: “I believe it is highly likely that Freeman may be have suffering clinical depression at the time of the offence”.
Dr Walton also believed Freeman may need close supervision because he was a suicide risk.
Justice Coghlan accepted that the sentence would “weigh more heavily” on Freeman partly as a result of his depression, but also the nature of Darcey’s death.
Arthur Freeman Peta Barnes marry in 1999
Judge describes moments before and after Darcey’s death
According to the judge, Freeman had driven to his parents’ house in the seaside hamlet of Aireys Inlet where his three children had been staying.
The next morning, Freeman’s father Peter noticed his son was distressed and appeared to be in a “trance”.
The day before he killed Darcey, Freeman had the amount of custody time he had with his children reduced by a court.
Justice Coghlan said Freeman’s act appeared to have been triggered by his reaction to custody orders, and a desire to seek “spousal revenge”.
While heading back to Melbourne, he had a lengthy phone conversation with friend Elizabeth Lamb who was in England at the time, telling her that he felt he had “lost” his children.
Minutes before the murder, Freeman telephoned Ms Barnes and told her to “Say goodbye to your children”.
He parked his four-wheel drive in the left-hand emergency lane, near the West Gate Bridge’s highest point, coaxed Darcey out of he car and picked her up.
Freeman then carried the child in his arms to the edge of the bridge and threw her over the edge.
As Freeman drove away from the bridge after murdering Darcey, his six-year-old son Ben urged him to turn back.
“Darcey can’t swim,” Ben told his father.
Freeman drove to the Commonwealth Law Courts complex in the CBD and tried to hand his two-year-old son Jack to security staff.
Freeman then became distressed and started crying and shaking.
He was later arrested at the complex.