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Vulnerability is most evident in childhood

It is something you associate with gangland families or the mafia, but this is a story that leaks right from the heart of our inadequate system of child protection and the perpetuation of long-term generational child abuse. It hails form Queensland to Melbourne and back again.

Rosa Richards was vilified in 1995 when charged with manslaughter in the death of her nineteen-month-old son, Dillon Palfrey.  Dillion Palfrey’s father, Darren Palfrey was tried twice unsuccessfully, for the murder of his partner Kerry Everingham in 2004, which remains unresolved. In 2015 another of Rosa’s son, Shane Stokes was charged with the murder and torture of his two-year-old daughter, Maddilyn-Rose Ava Stokes.

This is a family line heavily steeped in the welfare and child protection systems, yet two of these deaths were of children and occurred whilst they were supposed to be under the watchful eye of the state.

Rosa herself was removed from her home by child protection at the age of twelve and gave birth to her stepfather’s child at thirteen.  A son who would be later given up for adoption when his then fifteen-year-old mother broke his leg in an alleged instance of abuse.  He would be the first of Rosa’s eight sons.

At the point when her child was taken by the welfare system, Rosa who was herself only fifteen, was returned to the abusive family where she had started this tragic life.

Leaving home and marrying at sixteen, Rosa did not ever really get it together parenting wise, after giving birth to another three sons by nineteen, one of whom was Shane Stokes. 

Rosa left this family and did not raise these three sons; leaving them to be raised by their paternal grandmother, who was herself once a councilor provided to Rosa in the child protection system. 

Three relationships and three son’s later, Rosa delivered Dillon Palfrey on the 1st of September 1993.  Another son was born just over one year later. The family moved constantly and lived off welfare payments, residing in accommodations provided for them by the housing trust. At that point five of Rosa’s children did not live with her. 

The department of child protection had always been involved with the family especially in Brisbane, and on one occasion in 1992, police were called to the residence by someone concerned for the children and an officer warned Rosa of the risks of shaking a child.

On the 30th of April 1995, after numerous reports of abuse and neglect, the inevitable happened and Dillion Palfrey was murdered by his mother and her then partner, Lindsay Gregory. He had a brain injury, bleeding liver and bruising on his little body. The charges were downgraded and the pair served under seven years combined. 

One month before Dillion’s death, the department of child protective services in Melbourne, had closed the file on Rosa Richards, declaring no support was needed. Rosa had told staff she had been fantasizing about killing her children and confessed to an smothering of a then five-month-old sibling of Dillon’s.

We think child protection has come so far since 1995, but in 2015 Shane Stokes, Rosa’s son, and his de-facto partner Nicole Moore were reported to child welfare services, in the same city that his mother had been reported so many times over a decade before.  This time the charges were of neglect and deliberate starvation of a baby girl, Maddilyn-Rose Ava Stokes.

The pair were charged with child cruelty which usually carries a prison term, but again charges were downgraded and the pair were found guilty of failure to provide the necessities of life, and given and eighteen-month good behaviour bond and handed back their daughters.  

Stokes and Moore were still under the conditions of this bond when in 2017 they allegedly murdered their daughter. Maddilyn-Rose died of a heart attack in hospital on the 25th of May 2017, after days of untreated third-degree burns reportedly inflicted by her parents, became infected. 

Both Dillion and his niece, Maddilyn-Rose, were reported as victims of abuse at the hands of their caregivers long before either of their deaths.  Our system handed these vulnerable children back to parents who would eventually have a hand in ending their lives.

Dillion Palfrey was the son of Darren Palfrey, who in 2004 was charged and unsuccessfully tried twice for the murder of his girlfriend, Kerry Everingham. Darren had custody of at least one of Rosa’s children in Brisbane after her arrest in 1995.

After evading police questioning about his missing girlfriend’s whereabouts and a five-day search for the 38-year-old, police found her body, her bike and her backpack in a dry creek bed less that a block from Palfrey’s home.

The condition of her body did not allow pathologists to determine a cause of death, leading to two mistrials and with a determination on exactly how Kerry met her end never resolved.  Evidenced tendered in the case shows Kerry Everingham’s blood was found on Darren Palfrey’s pillow. He was found guilty of the lesser charge of interfering with a corpse.

Darren later admitted to having piggybacked Kerry Everingham’s deceased body to Downfall creek and dumping her person and her belongings into the creek, after having found her dead of natural caused in his bed.  His excuse for not calling the authorities upon finding his lovers body was that he did not want to miss attending his daughter’s high school graduation the following day.

The system that allowed these people to have custody of our smallest and most vulnerable citizens has clearly let them down.  Members of Strokes own family had previously tried to have his daughter removed from her parents’ care, to no avail.  Now that we have these deaths finally connected, I wonder if anything has changed in our nations handling of generational child neglect and abuse. 

Sleep with eye open,



The Queen vs Rosa Maria Richards:

The Queen v Lindsay Robert Gregory:

McCluskey, Mary, “Parents who kill: Media constructions of male and female filicide cases” (2019).

The bad mother in media and legal texts by Bronwyn Naylor:

The Age, Melboutne, February 25th 1996, Page 4 “The sad, short story of s seventh son”

The courier Mail, September 10, 2007 ‘Murder Jury gives up” :

The Courier Mail, June 5, 2017 ‘Maddilyn-Rose Ava Stokes’ parents charged with murder, torture’ :

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