A MAN who brutally beat and killed a toddler while babysitting him has launched a bid to walk free from jail after only four years.
Shane Burke and Kerri-Ann Goodwin are fighting to keep their child’s killer behind bars after their 18-month-old son was violently bashed and tortured to death.
Matthew James Ireland, 33, was entrusted with the care of Hemi Goodwin-Burke when his parents made the trip from their home in the central Queensland coal mining town of Moranbah to Brisbane in March of 2015.
The 620-mile trip was for Ms Goodwin’s medical treatment after she injured her back in a workplace accident and needed to see a neurosurgeon.
The couple had planned to make the drive with their kids but decided to entrust them with Matthew Ireland – a man they had known for a decade.
He had no criminal record and presented as trustworthy and reliable.
The pair was preparing to head back from Brisbane to their Moranbah house and their children when they learnt of their babysitter’s fatal betrayal.
The night before they had spoken to their kids about 6.30pm, gone to bed and woken early to a series of missed calls from Hemi’s grandparents, who told them to call police.
Officers, who had already taken a preliminary, false version of events from Ireland, told them to fly straight to Townsville.
“We found out later he started drinking as soon as we left,” Shane Burke told news.com.au.
“He locked the kids in the house and went down to the pub to buy alcohol.
“Every time he went inside to have another drink, he inflicted another blow on little Hemi.”
Hemi died in hospital in March 2015 after Ireland’s assault over several hours ruptured the boy’s spleen, severed his brain stem, broke his rib and left 75 bruises.
Mr Burke said Ireland gave four different statements to police.
He initially blamed another child at the house, saying he “hit (Hemi) with a chair”.
He later told another lie, that Hemi “had just slipped over” and had a seizure.
The boy was taken to Moranbah Hospital, then flown to Townsville Hospital.
Doctors told Shane and Kerri-Ann the brain stem injury meant he had “really died at our home … he was just on machines”.
Police charged Ireland with torture and grievous bodily harm.
When Hemi’s life support was switched off, they charged Ireland with murder
Hi parents are now fighting to keep Ireland behind bars amid fears he could be released in less than three weeks if the Parole Board votes to grant him parole.
Ireland was heading to trial for Hemi’s murder when, in March 2017, he pleaded guilty in the Mackay Supreme Court to the lesser charge of manslaughter.
Mr Burke said the plea denied his family an opportunity to find out exactly what had happened.
Although the agreed facts said Hemi was tortured over a few hours, in one statement Ireland had said it was 10 hours.
“He pushed him down in his cot, he kicked him like a football, he squeezed and crushed him like a Coke can,” Mr Burke said.
“He says he just ‘lost his s**t’.
“He had no previous (convictions). On the face of it, he was trustworthy
Ireland spent two years in remand centres — where no rehabilitation programs for child offenders exist — before his plea and transfer to a Brisbane prison.
Ireland wept in the dock of the Mackay court as he was handed a sentence of eight-and-a-half years in prison.
But because the maximum sentence was less than 10 years, Ireland was due for parole after just four years.
Mr Burke said: “It’s an absolute insult to the memory of our child and I’d be fearful of him being in the company of another child.
“What if he met a single mother and people do not know at all what he’s done?
“Two years is not enough time for rehabilitation.”
A petition on change.org has emerged online.
The petition reads: “This is a matter of public safety. We cannot let this convicted child killer into our community where he could violently take another child’s life.”
“Our baby was violently pushed, punched and kicked in a sustained and vicious attack by a full grown man.
“… 78 bruises, ruptured internal organs, fractured bones and a severed brain stem.
“And his killer is going to be set free after only FOUR YEARS? HOW IS THIS FAIR?”