Startling new claims about kids allegedly killed by mother
A LONG-TERM friend of the woman accused of murdering two of her disabled adult children has claimed the siblings did not appear to be mentally or physically impaired before they were teenagers.
Maree Crabtree, 51, was charged on Wednesday with two counts of murder over the deaths of her 26-year-old son Jonathan in July 2017 and her 18-year-old daughter Erin in September 2012 on the Gold Coast. Police allege that both siblings had disabilities and died as a result of being forced to take prescription medication. Ms Crabtree is also accused of preparing Jonathan's suicide note.
Erin was reportedly "severely impaired" with some witnesses claiming she was mute and required full-time care prior to her death. Jonathan had suffered injuries in two car crashes.
Ms Crabtree was also charged with the grievous bodily harm and torture of another woman, 25. The victim spent "extensive" time in hospital as a result of her injuries, police allege.
Ms Crabtree has one surviving adult daughter, who suffers from severe disabilities, and has been placed in care.
According to a long term friend of Ms Crabtree's, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, Jonathan and Erin didn't appear mentally or physically impaired until their teenage years.
"Erin was completely normal up until she was about 13 or 14," the woman, who went to high school with Ms Crabtree, said.
"She seemed fine, they were all happy kids.
"Her daughter went horseriding on my property in Newcastle and could carry conversations normally."
It wasn't until last week when Ms Crabtree was arrested and charged with murder, torture and several fraud offences and armed robbery, that her friend became aware of the allegations against her.
Police also claim Ms Crabtree dishonestly gained an insurance payout of $567,863 between March 2011 and August 2013.
Ms Crabtree has also been accused of attempted fraud over a superannuation death benefit policy valued at $125,000 and a fraudulent permanent disability claim of $238,800.
The former schoolfriend who spoke to news.com.au said Ms Crabtree had messaged her from a cruise in 2012 and told her Erin had died on-board the ship and asked for money to repatriate her body.
"I didn't find out that Erin wasn't even on the ship and had died at home until I saw the charges on the news last week when I was prepping dinner," the woman said.
"I just went 'Oh my God, I know this woman, that's my friend Maree'."
In handcuffs, there was no sign of the "class clown" she described Ms Crabtree as having been during their high school years.
"She used to be able to fart different songs ... like Advance Australia Fair," the woman said.
"I still laugh about it."
But laughter is no longer something friends or strangers associate with the Crabtree family.
Ms Crabtree's lawyer Emily Lewsy told reporters outside the court on Wednesday her client would "vigorously defend the charges".
Detective Inspector Mark Thompson said police alleged the murders were "premeditated" and financially motivated.
"These acts haven't been compassionate acts of a stressed mother at her end," he said after her arrest.
"It was calculated, it was planned and it was executed with an end goal in mind."
Insp Thompson said the family had a "significant history" in other parts of Australia, particularly New South Wales, and urged anyone with information to come forward.
He also asked anyone who is being preyed upon in their family environment to "pick up a phone" and contact police. "It's safer for all concerned that we shine the light on domestic and family violence," he said.
Ms Crabtree was remanded in custody and her matter is set to return to court on February 12.