Grieving parents tell how they trusted babysitter

HELP AROUND THE HOUSE: Matthew James Ireland (far right) taking young Hemi Burke to swimming lessons.
HELP AROUND THE HOUSE: Matthew James Ireland (far right) taking young Hemi Burke to swimming lessons. Contributed

KERRI-ANN Goodwin and Shane Burke had no idea the babysitter they had come to trust would hurt their son.

But on March 26, 2015, 18-month-old Hemi Burke was bashed to death, while in the care of Matthew James Ireland, 31.

Ireland had been "good with the kids", Ms Goodwin said.

The couple "thought it was great" having Ireland help out around their Moranbah home while Ms Goodwin recovered from a workplace accident.

"We were going to have a gap of like two weeks where we didn't have an au pair. It was just while I was at work (in the mines) and Kez (Kerri-Ann) was there all the time," Mr Burke said.

"I've known him (Ireland) for 10 years.

"He was helping around the house. Helping mow the lawn and everything. We thought it was great."

Ireland helped the family out for about a month and a half before that day in March 2015 when Ms Goodwin and Mr Burke needed to visit a neurologist in Brisbane.

Ireland was left to care for Hemi and his young sister.

But Hemi was rushed to hospital with injuries including dozens of bruises to his body, brain damage and ruptured internal organs, but died soon after.

He left behind a devastated family and community.

Ireland was originally charged with murder, but it was downgraded to manslaughter.

"They (Crown prosecution) said (it was about) intent. It would be hard to prove intent," Mr Burke said.


Shane Burke and Kerri-Ann Goodwin.
Shane Burke and Kerri-Ann Goodwin. Tony Martin

Without a trial, the family is left in the dark about exactly what happened.

"We don't even know what he's admitted to. We don't know what he's done," Mr Burke said.

"We had no idea that this was going to happen. There's no way we would leave the kids with someone if we thought that. We were only looking at some photos the other day of him taking the kids to swimming lessons."

Ms Goodwin described her little boy, nicknamed 'H-bomb', as a "content, happy little baby" before his death.

"He had big brown eyes. A cheeky smile and he adored his sister. They were pretty much twins," she smiled.

"You'd walk in the room and he'd have this big smile. Nothing phased him."

Ms Goodwin and Mr Burke moved to Slade Point after Hemi's death, to escape the sad memories associated with their Moranbah home.

Ireland will appear in court for sentencing in June.

Topics:  court death editors picks hemi burke killed mackay manslaughter matthew james ireland moranbah

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