A WOMAN who sparked a massive missing person search in July after abandoning her young children at a service station was having a "breakdown".
Vicki Maree Barrett, 37, was struggling to cope with the loneliness of having a husband working away when she injected speed and woke her sleeping children to drive around Nambour.
Police prosecutor Rick Pallister told Maroochydore Magistrates Court yesterday that Ms Barrett's daughters, aged 10 and eight, were in their pyjamas and asleep when she drove to "multiple locations to withdraw money and buy food".
Senior Constable Pallister said she dropped into 7-Eleven on Nambour Connection Road about 11pm on July 27 to "cool down" because she was feeling the effects of the drug.
Snr Const Pallister said Ms Barrett exposed her breasts to the attendant and then ran into a male friend in the store.
He said the children woke up "cold, scared and alone" in an unlocked car and found their mother's keys, phone and purse.
Snr Const Pallister said they called their father in central Queensland.
He said Ms Barrett was returning to the car when she saw her father-in-law with her children, realised her behaviour was inappropriate and left to spend time with her male friend.
MS Barrett pleaded guilty yesterday to leaving her children alone and failing to dispose of a syringe.
Ms Barrett, who escaped a conviction, must complete 18 months of probation.
She is not allowed to consume any illegal drugs and must submit to urinalysis and psychological treatment during the order.
On the night in question Ms Barrett had been at the Maroochydore RSL for a family birthday and had gone home to put the children to bed about 9pm.
Solicitor Alicia Thomas said her client was having a "breakdown" and "having extreme difficulties dealing with the loneliness" of having a husband working away.
Ms Thomas said the hairdresser's husband had just applied for another job away from the family home and she was self-medicating.
"She was upset about him going away for more periods of time," she said.
"When she came back to her car to look for her children, she found her father-in-law and did not want a confrontation.
"She didn't know she was a missing person (until she arrived home two days later)."
Magistrate Tom Killeen described Ms Barrett's behaviour as "bizarre" but believed people should be given the option of probation before sending them to jail.
He said references tendered to the court indicated her "conduct on this occasion appears to be out of the normal".
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