Australian mother Ashley Polkinghorne and her partner Benjamin McPartland were convicted recently on criminal negligence charges over the death of Polkinghorne’s four-year-old daughter Chloe. The court found the couple’s treatment of Chloe so disturbing that Justice Trish Kelly said “it's more than stupidity at its highest level, there is a sinister element to this.”
Chloe died on Christmas day 2012 while riding a motorbike given to her by her parents. Video footage shown to the court reveals Polkinghorne and McPartland forced the girl to ride the motorbike, which was far too big for her to control, as they filmed her repeatedly crashing into different objects. The couple laughed as the child injured herself before propping her up on the bike again.
The injuries Chloe endured from the crashes killed her.
Justice Kelly says the child was clearly afraid of the motorbike from the start.
"The footage I've seen of that child opening her Christmas presents is one of the most chilling pieces of footage I have ever seen of a child opening Christmas presents,” she said. “It was utterly chilling. This was a plainly frightened child on Christmas Day."
When Chloe was taken to the hospital following the crashes, family members testified that she was barely recognizable.
“She was like a broken doll lying in the bed in hospital with tubes and wires coming out of her,” the girl’s grandmother said. “At first I couldn't recognize her, she was so swollen and bruised and broken. It was horrific and unbelievable.”
The couple was reportedly seen laughing and smoking outside of the hospital as Chloe lay inside on life support. ABC News Australia reports the couple didn’t even stay at the hospital until Chloe’s death – they promptly left after she was taken off life support.
Justice Kelly said the couple's conduct goes beyong neglect.
"Depending on what view you take, it's more than stupidity at its highest level, there is a sinister element to this. It's more than neglect," she said.
Polkinghorne and McPartland are scheduled to be sentenced next week.