The death of a seven-year-old in South Australia is being investigated as a case of possible criminal neglect.
SA Police detective superintendent Des Bray said Craigmore boy Makai was taken to Lyell McEwin Hospital “very sick” on February 10 and was then transferred to the Women’s and Children’s Hospital, where he died later that day.
Task Force Prime, which was set up after the death of six-year-old Charlie, is now investigating whether the boy’s death was a case of criminal neglect.
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Investigators are also examining the care of his five siblings, aged between seven and 16.
Bray said a post-mortem examination following Makai’s death revealed several serious health issues.
He said the provisional cause of death was unusual, but was not a cause for immediate concern.
“The cause of death in itself wasn’t enough to raise concern because it was a serious, recognized health issue,” Bray said, adding that a coronial investigation was launched following the death.
About 10 days after Makai’s death, a coronial direction obtained information from “various child protection authorities”, which was then passed on to SA Police in July.
“Soon after, investigators began reviewing volumes of material and obtained an opinion from a pediatric expert,” he said.
“They formed the view that sufficient grounds existed to commence a criminal investigation of criminal neglect causing death.”
Bray said an interim cause of death had been determined but declined to comment further.
Investigators will determine whether anyone was guilty for Makai’s death or the neglect of the other siblings, Bray said.
Makai and his siblings had been staying in their father’s care since November 2020. Their mother was not living with him at the time of his death.
“There is neglect and abuse which we believe has occurred over a period of time but it doesn’t have all the same characteristics of Charlie’s,” Bray said.
Charlie was found unresponsive in her family home in Munno Para on July 15 and died in Lyell McEwin Hospital, sparking a police investigation into suspected neglect.
searching for answers
Following Charlie’s death, the state government ordered a review of the interactions between government agencies and the family in recent years.
Premier Peter Malinauskas on Monday announced a new wholly independent review would now investigate these interactions for both families.
“The death of any child is something that breaks all of our hearts, particularly parents across the state,” he told reporters.
“One was shocking, two is desperately heartbreaking.
“There is absolutely merit given the elevation of this for a wholly independent led review.”
Malinauskas said he was “not wasting any time” and had appointed former SA police commissioner Mal Hyde to lead the review as “someone every South Australian has complete confidence in”.
“This is about making sure we have a review of integrity, of independence and robustness so we fully understand exactly what interactions occurred between government agencies and these families and to see whether or not there were any failures of systems that could be addressed,” he said.
“Two innocent children losing their lives potentially because of criminal neglect is beyond sad. But we know about it and we have to respond.”
Malinauskas said the findings of the review would be made public.
Bray said criminal neglect occurred when a person with a duty of care to a child failed to take all reasonable steps to protect them from harm, and a child is harmed or dies as a result of that neglect.
It carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.