An Australian mother has been extradited to New South Wales after she allegedly tried to drown her two sons in a river, leaving one boy in hospital and police searching the water for the second.
The woman walked to the Murray River, near the NSW-Victoria border, with her children, and told her eldest son, aged 9, to get in the water before she held his head under, police told Bendigo Magistrates Court on Friday afternoon.
Detective Sergeant Trent Swinton told the court the younger son, aged 5, was screaming during the incident.
The woman then allegedly turned to the 5-year-old son, while the older son managed to struggle free before he was attacked by a pit bull.
It is alleged she then held her younger son’s head under the water, and later pushed him face-down out into the river, where he was last seen drifting.
The court heard people on the riverbank who did not witness the incident heard screams.
Detective Sergeant Swinton said the woman made full admissions to her role in the incident, and told police of her “intention to kill both children”. The court also heard she allegedly told witnesses the night before that she “had to drown my babies”.
She has been extradited to NSW, where she will be charged and face Deniliquin Local Court on Saturday.
The woman, 27, from Deniliquin, sobbed uncontrollably as she faced Bendigo Magistrates Court via video link just after 4.30pm on Friday afternoon.
She had handed herself in to police at about 10pm on Thursday.
A police source said the boys had been with their mother for at least two days, travelling through Victoria. At some stage she sent a message to the grandmother to say she would never see the five-year-old and nine-year-old again.
It is understood the nine-year-old boy sustained several dog bites and is in a serious condition in the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne.
The five-year-old boy is still missing. A search by NSW and Victoria police, SES and Maritime Rescue began on Thursday evening but was called off at 11pm, before resuming at 8am on Friday.
Thirty searchers are combing the river, with Victorian Police divers and spotter planes also taking part in the search.
It’s understood the mother, who doesn’t have custody of her sons, was released from prison recently after being arrested late last year on two outstanding warrants.
Her photo was published in a local newspaper as part of an operation cracking down on wanted criminals.
In an emotional press conference on Friday afternoon, Deniliquin Local Area Commander Superintendent Paul Condon said the mother was also bitten by the dog.
“About 10pm, a 27-year-old female has presented to Echuca police station, where she was conveyed to Echuca hospital for severe dog bites.
“The 27-year-old female was interviewed by Deniliquin detectives this afternoon and they are now preparing documents for her extradition and charge of attempted murder.
“So far the search has involved searching the riverbank where [the boy] was last seen as well as using Victoria Police divers to search the river.”
Superintendent Condon said there had been “a couple of incidents” with the family since the mother was released from jail.
“We’ve had a brief conversation with the nine-year-old last night and we haven’t had another. He requires some surgery for the dog bites and of course he’s distressed; he’s a nine-year-old boy.”
He said it was a “terrible story” and a “tragic story” for the border town community, but would also have a wider impact.
“I think it will rock the community of Australia,” he said.