Father pleads guilty to charge of child homicide

Joseph McDonald, 23, of Benalla, Victoria. [Image credit: Victoria Police]

On Friday 23-year-old Joseph McDonald appeared in Victoria's Supreme Court to plead guilty to a charge of child homicide for killing his 7-week-old son, Lucas, in October 2019.


"This was a spontaneous act of rage," his barrister, Colin Mandy SC said in court documents.  He went on to state that his client was "deeply remorseful for what he has done," and "feels like he should be punished appropriately for what he's done, whatever that might be."


Court documents further reveal that McDonald has had issues with anger, drug use, and was addicted to online gaming.


"His compulsive involvement in gaming was a further trigger for irritability, both when he was confronted about his behavior as well as when he became frustrated with losing a game," Mandy stated.


"The noise of Lucas crying because he was in the same lounge room, was interrupting his game... he couldn't concentrate on his game," Lucas' grandmother Sharon Mills was quoted by Nine as saying. "He couldn't play his game, so he broke."


Samantha Duckmanton recalls the night of October 24 when she heard a "high-pitched cry." She reportedly called out to see if everything was okay, and McDonald responded that he was swaddling Lucas.


McDonald was said to have placed Lucas into his rocker, used his foot to rock him, and resumed playing his games until eventually falling asleep.


What McDonald chose to withhold from her was that he had either directly struck Lucas, or caused Lucas to strike his head to such a degree that he suffered what medical personnel called "catastrophic" head injuries which where clearly "non-accidental."


The following day, it was clear that Lucas' condition was worsening.  He appeared dazed, his limbs were making strange movements, he wasn't feeding, and his eyes were not focusing.


He was initially taken to a Benalla area hospital where McDonald delayed his son receiving proper treatment by telling the hospital workers that the baby had appeared "pale, breathing very quietly" after a routine check-up.


Eventually scans revealed that Lucas was suffering a brain bleed and he was transferred to Monash Children's Hospital.


Further scans revealed that Lucas was in fact brain dead.


Lucas died four days later on October 29.


On the day that he died, hospital workers met with Duckmanton and McDonald concerning Lucas' injuries.  When confronted with the fact that the injuries could not have been accidental, Duckmanton asked, "What exactly happened when I heard that cry?"


McDonald fled the hospital and hid for a time before eventually turning himself in to police.


"I was right next door, like if I had just let him do the dishes and looked after bubby, he'd be alive today," Duckmanton said before the court. "That's what's going to eat me and I couldn't protect him because I trusted Joseph."


McDonald will be sentenced at a later date which has not been announced.  He faces the possibility of 20 years in prison.