• Baby Charlie Mullaley. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
Whilst his mother and grandfather are provided parliamentary pardons, they remain fighting for accountability for the failings that led to Baby Charlie's death.
Rachael Knowles

22 Jun 2022 - 4:26 PM  UPDATED 22 Jun 2022 - 5:37 PM

WARNING: Distressing content.

The WA Attorney General has apologised to the mother and grandfather of an Aboriginal baby who was murdered in a horrific case of domestic violence in 2013.

Charlie Mullaley was kidnapped in Broome by his mother's then-boyfriend, Mervyn Bell, who tortured and killed him the next day.

Charlie's mother Tamica Mullaley had suffered a violent assault on the night by Mr Bell that left her bleeding and naked, but when police were called to the scene she was arrested and taken away. 

Her father, Ted Mullaley, had requested police take the child away from the crime scene. The police failed to intervene, and the baby was kidnapped.

Ted was also charged with assaulting police following the traumatic evening.

The coroner investigated the death but did not hold an inquest. Mr Bell was sentenced to life in prison, but he died by suicide in 2015.

Almost a decade on from Charlie's murder, state Attorney General John Quigley has apologised to the family.

"On behalf of the government of Western Australia, I am sorry for the way you were treated by the government and the WA police both before and after losing baby Charlie," he said.

"Ted and Tamica deserved compassion. Instead, the system we thought we could rely on to support victims of crime failed Tamica and Ted and they were dragged through the courts themselves."

Mr Quigley also pardoned the Mullaley's in a "show of mercy that was a long time coming."

'This is just the start'

For Ms Mullaley, today is bittersweet.

"If police had treated me like a human being that night, my baby Charlie would be alive today," said the Yamatji woman.

"I cannot express the pain that is inside me as a mother who has lost her child in such horrible circumstances. It never goes away.

"Today's pardon and the statements in Parliament are a turning point and perhaps me and my family can start to heal from now."

Ms Mullaley said it's taken nine years to be "seen and heard" by the WA government, a journey that they've walked with their lawyers, the National Justice Project.

"This is just the start. Next, we take on the CCC, the Coroner and the Police. We’re coming for you," she said.

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Failures of the state

In 2016, the Corruption and Crime Commission inquiry released a report on the details surrounding the death of Charlie.

It found that there were failings on behalf of police in response to both the domestic violence incident, the time it took to respond to important information and their issuing of incorrection information in relation to Bell’s licence plate.

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The Mullaley family, whilst acknowledging the Attorney General's words, said the failure to carry out a duty of protection and care by police resulted in Charlie's death.

“We the Mullaley family hope that the two serving Broome Police Officers attending the incident on Guy Street, on the night of 19 March 2013 never forget their actions of confrontation and indifference," they said.

"The family firmly believe that it was their lack of responsibility to carry out a duty of protection and care, as they were both charged to follow, that resulted in the unbearable loss to our family.”

"The price of the fight has been hard and the personal health and mental cost high, but we never gave up.

We will continue to share our unbearable tragic loss and experience until Charlie Boy Mullaley’s story is known by all.”  

If this story has raised issues for you, or if you are currently experiencing domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732). You can also call Lifeline on 131114, 13 YARN on 139276 or contact your local Aboriginal Medical Service.

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