You can see the fear in the eyes of four year old Chloe Valentine as she looks into the camera, and she had good reason to be afraid. Her mother Ashlee Jean Polkinghome and her boyfriend Benjamin Robert McPartland killed her with a cruel vindictiveness that beggars belief.
In 2012, Chloe died when she sustained horrific injuries after falling off a motor bike and hurting herself, over and over again. Her feet couldn't touch the ground and it was far too heavy for a four year old girl, but that didn't matter to her mother and her boyfriend who laughed every time she fell off.
Similar motor bike
Chloe was put on a newly purchased motor bike over a four-day period, even though she had two black eyes and significant bruising. The child was terrified of McPartland, every time she fell off, he virtually threw her back on. Her mother recorded several videos of the event and the couple can be heard laughing when she falls and hurts herself.
When she was finally knocked unconscious, the pair didn't bother to call an ambulance for several hours. Instead, as the child lay dying, they checked their Facebook page and did some internet banking. When she eventually arrived at the hospital, her injuries were so horrific, relatives said she was unrecognizable. Her life support was turned off the next day.
The court heard that Chloe would cling to her grandmother at the end of a visit and plead not to be sent home. "I feel so guilty that I didn't try harder to get her away from Ben and Ashlee" she said.
At the time of her death, Polkinghome's brother Jake Valentine said when the couple were outside the hospital, laughing and smoking, they said it was lucky the police hadn't found the drugs in the house.
Polkinghome was jailed for eight years with a non-parole period of four years and nine months after pleading guilty to manslaughter by criminal neglect. Her partner Ben McPartland got seven years with a non-parole period of four years and two months.
Chloe died in the arms of her grandmother, her mother was nowhere to be found.
Child safety Department spokesman David Waterford said
"For Families SA to remove a child from the care of their parent or parents, we need to have evidence we can present to a court. We are unable to make those decisions by ourselves and at no point was there sufficient evidence for us to go before a court and say 'This child should not be in the care of their parents and should be under the guardianship of the Minister.'"
But surely Mr Waterford must take some responsibility for the death of Chloe Valentine. The Office for Child Safety in Families SA said they received 22 notifications that Chloe was at risk, the first one when she was three weeks old. It's just not good enough!