A woman who killed her three children in their home before setting it alight has been sentenced to three life sentences.
Margaret Dale Hawke, 36, had pleaded guilty to fatally stabbing and strangling her daughter, 10, and son, 7, before smothering her other son, just four-months-old, at a property on Anderson St in the Western Australian Pilbara town of Port Hedland on July 19.
Hawke then walked to the beach to dispose of the knife she had used to kill two of her children, before returning and starting two fires in the home’s bedrooms.
The children were not named in court for cultural reasons.
It was revealed in court Hawke had presented to a refuge with her children the night before the murders, but was turned away because it was full.
In sentencing Friday, WA Supreme Court Justice Michael Lundberg handed down a life sentence for each count of murder, to be served concurrently, with minimum non-parole periods of 25 years.
Justice Lundberg, who himself was born and raised in Port Hedland, said the deaths had affected those outside Hawke’s immediate family.
“Those who responded on the day … the classmates of your two oldest children … and no doubt on the community of Port Hedland,” Justice Lundberg said.
Reading the facts of the case, Justice Lundberg revealed Hawke had been “taking a combination of methamphetamine, cannabis and benzodiazepine,” in the days before the killings.
It was during this time police were called to Anderson St, Hawke’s daughter reporting her mother had hit and strangled her.
The children were taken to live with their grandmother, Hawke’s mother, but were returned the day before their deaths, the final day of the school holidays.
As the gruesome details of the actual slayings were read aloud, Hawke, sitting in the dock and flanked by bailiffs, sobbed and bowed her head, her hands holding a wad of tissues to her face.
Margaret Hawke, 36, pleaded guilty to killing her three young children in their Port Hedland home before setting it alight in July.
In previous hearings, Hawke banged her head against the dock and cried loudly. The court was also told she banged her head against the wall during one of her two police interviews.
“Recounting the events … has an obvious emotional impact on you,” said Justice Lundberg on Friday.
In earlier sentencing hearings the court heard Hawke had presented at a women’s refuge with her children the night before the murders, but was turned away because the refuge was at capacity.
Defence lawyer Alana Woldan said her client wasn’t coping with the responsibilities of motherhood, and suffered from a life full of “dysfunction and difficulties.”
The court heard Hawke had been introduced to drugs and alcohol at an early age, and felt like she was a failure as a mother due to the perception others were intensely judging her.
Family members were present in the public gallery on Friday, while Hawke’s mother watched proceedings via video link from South Hedland.
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Sentencing hearings wrapped up on April 28, with Justice Lundberg reserving his decision one week until Friday to consider the case.
The home on Anderson St has since been torn down, and a community garden will be built on the site.