By Emily Ritchie, The Australian

Joey was just shy of three years old when he was taken into the ­custody of his mother and stepfather. Seven weeks later, he was on life support in hospital. After three days, he was dead.

Yesterday in the NSW Supreme Court, Joey’s guardians were found guilty of his murder by a jury that took 2½ days to ­deliberate.

The pair, whose names have been suppressed, claimed Joey died from head injuries after tripping over a dog leash during a family visit to the park in Sydney’s west on August 3, 2014.

Their trial heard they had been subjecting him to a horrific regime of physical and psychological abuse, however, including beating him repeatedly with a wooden spoon, taping a ball into his mouth and shutting him into an Esky filled with ice.

It was these injuries, the jury was convinced, that were the ­ultimate cause of death.

The court heard Joey had been a happy and healthy boy living with relatives south of Sydney ­before he moved in with his mother, 42, and stepfather, 47, in ­Oberon, central western NSW, in June 2014. Two months later, on August 3, he went into cardiac arrest. He was flown to hospital and fought for life in a critical condition before dying three days later.

His mother admitted she had many thoughts about killing her son “because she loved him, but just didn’t connect with him” and “there was a part of me that hated him because he looked like his ­father”.

The crown argued that Joey’s stepfather, who admitted to ­assaulting him on numerous occasions, was complicit in his murder. The pair will be sentenced on ­August 11.

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