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  • Child & mother dies
  • By Wayne Howell
  • Herald Sun
  • 21/08/2004 Make a Comment
  • Contributed by: admin ( 100 articles in 2004 )
A TODDLER died a horrific, lonely death just metres from her mother's kneeling corpse, a court heard yesterday.

Seventeen-month-old Tabitha Cox probably heard the phone messages left by a worried social worker, but she could not tell her mum was dead. Tabitha somehow managed to get out of a plaster cast on an arm she broke about a week earlier.

Finally, on September 26, 2002 -- about 10 days after it is believed Joy Cox died -- police drilled through the lock on the security door of her Doncaster flat.

They found the body of the 42-year-old single mother kneeling with her head on the lounge floor.

In the corner of the room Tabitha's naked little body was lying face down. She is believed to have died from starvation or dehydration.

Yesterday, Senior Constable Andrew Evans told the Coroner's Court he believed Ms Cox died from a dose of unprescribed pure methadone.

He said he believed Tabitha died "some considerable time after her mother as a result of being left unattended".

Sen-Constable Evans said a neighbour heard "cries coming from the flat throughout the night" a night or two after Joy Cox is believed to have taken her fatal dose.

He said he did not believe Ms Cox committed suicide.

Yesterday the Department of Human Services protection support manager in Melbourne's eastern suburbs, Stuart Lindner, said Tabitha had been under an interim protection order for three months until February 2002.

After concerns about Joy's violent ex-partner -- Tabitha's father -- the department closely monitored the mother's care of her daughter.

But he said the protection order ended because DHS staff believed Joy Cox was progressing well and mother and daughter had a strong attachment.

Mr Lindner said a maternal and child health nurse praised Ms Cox as "a regular attendee and fantastic".

He said the only evidence of drug abuse by Ms Cox was a 20-year-old conviction for possessing heroin, and her admission she smoked marijuana.

Ms Cox's support worker from Doncaster Community Care and Counselling Centre, Susan Kerchhoff said the deaths came as "total shock and were completely unexpected".

She said she never saw any evidence of drug abuse in the five months she helped Ms Cox.

Ms Kerchhoff said Ms Cox had been a concerned and a proud mother who fed and clothed her daughter well.

Ms Kerchhoff said from September 19 to 26 she left several messages on Ms Cox's answering machine and had even knocked on her door on September 23, but all in vain.

Coroner Jane Hendtlass is expected to hand down her findings on September 10.

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