A Gold Coast woman accused of killing two of her children and forcing them to take prescription medications for several years for financial gain told “a lot of lies”, was “very controlling” and also allegedly drugged one of her son’s girlfriends, a court has heard.
- The committal hearing heard Maree Crabtree’s dead son was “petrified” of his mother
- Witnesses say they suspected their food and drinks were being poisoned
- About 100 witnesses are expected to give evidence over the next three weeks
Maree Crabtree was charged in 2018 over the murders of her son Jonathan Crabtree, 26, in 2017, and her daughter Erin, 18, in 2012.
Both deaths were initially considered suicides.
Ms Crabtree was also charged with torturing and attempting to murder another woman known to her over a seven-year period.
Police alleged she forced all three to take prescription pain medication over a prolonged period, which caused them to suffer from health and developmental problems.
It was also alleged Ms Crabtree used their disabilities, and her children’s deaths, to claim close to $1 million in insurance payouts.
In a committal hearing being held in Brisbane, Jonathan’s ex-girlfriend Katelyn Lofts told the court he had feared his mother.
“He was actually petrified of Maree,” she said.
“He just wanted to leave but she would not let him as his name was on the house.”
Ms Lofts said Jonathan had told her his mother would not let him have friends or let him speak about his sister’s death.
“He said every time he mentioned [Erin], Maree would get angry,” she said.
“Maree won’t let anyone come and visit.”
Son was ‘trying to escape’
The court heard that throughout the pair’s 18-month relationship, between 2014 and 2015, Ms Lofts was aware Jonathan had been taking medication that was not his and he was regularly violent with her.
It also heard Jonathan told Ms Lofts that he wanted to end his life.
The court was told Jonathan was involved in a car accident in 2015, which Ms Lofts said Ms Crabtree “blamed” on her.
“He was actually trying to escape from her — he told me that,” she said.
Ms Lofts told the court Ms Crabtree told “a lot of lies” and she believed she had been given spiked drinks at their home on three occasions by Ms Crabtree.
“I fell asleep and woke up groggy,” Ms Lofts said.
When questioned by Ms Crabtree’s lawyer about why she continued to accept drinks from Ms Crabtree, Ms Lofts said that she did not believe it would continue to happen.
Not ‘allowed to live his own life’
A friend of Jonathan’s, Cassandra Hopper, said he had told her he struggled to cope with his sister’s death and had expressed a continuous desire to kill himself.
“He told me [Erin] died of cancer,” she said over video link.
“He was pretty self-destructive about her death and didn’t want to be alive because she was dead.”
Ms Hopper told the court that during her friendship with Jonathan, Ms Crabtree had been “very controlling” of him, and he had said it made him depressed.
“He wasn’t allowed to live his own life, he had to live by her rules,” she said.
“He wasn’t allowed to message anyone without her being able to read the messages.”
The court heard Jonathan had told Ms Hopper he was taking several prescription medications before his death, including valium and tramadol.
“He said he was taking them often,” she said.
Ms Hopper said the day of the 2015 car crash, Jonathan had sent her a message saying he wanted to kill himself, but she was not certain he was the one who had sent it.
“He denied sending that message after he woke up in hospital; he doesn’t remember sending that at all — so I don’t know if that was him,” she said.
“I print-screened it and sent it to his mother and said ‘don’t let him drive.’ She said, ‘he’s fine.'”
Suspicions of poisoned food
Ms Crabtree’s ex-partner Peter McMahon said when he lived with the family in 2003, the children had “no health issues” but in the following years, Erin, who was nine at the time, began withdrawing for an unknown reason.
“She was a very healthy and very talkative girl [and] she started not to eat, she wouldn’t interact,” Mr McMahon said.
When giving evidence via video link, Mr McMahon said Ms Crabtree had been “a good mother”.
“Maree would not let her kids out of her sight,” he said.
The court also heard Mr McMahon had told police that on one occasion, Ms Crabtree had told him: “if she had a gun, she would shoot him”.
Mr McMahon also told the court he believed she had begun poisoning his food.
“I started to feel it was tasting different,” he said.
Jonathan’s football coach, Adam Flier, told the court Jonathan had always been a “happy-go-lucky” person but had “underlying sadness” about his sister’s death.
“Almost every conversation we had with him was something to do with Erin,” he said.
The court heard Jonathan had told Mr Flier he suffered from suicidal ideation and had made multiple attempts to kill himself.
It also heard he told Mr Flier he would sometimes take his sister’s morphine as he has a sore back.
“The sister was a cancer patient or something like that,” he said.
The committal hearing is expected to run for three weeks and could hear evidence from more than 100 witnesses who have provided statements.