Dead boy once photographed in dryer

Last updated 20:02 19/06/2013

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About one year before a three-year-old boy was found unconscious in a washing machine with his dead pet cat, he was photographed sitting inside a dryer with no door.

The West Australian coroner is investigating the death of Sean Murphy, who was found in the front-loader machine on the afternoon of September 20, 2010, after his mother, Kerry, claimed she overslept.

Craig Sheppard, who was in a relationship with Murphy and was living with her and Sean, testified on Wednesday that he could not recall who took the photograph of Sean in the dryer.

He said the pair found the photograph after Sean died, and recollected the youngster liked to play hide and seek.

Sheppard said when Sean was naughty, he would have some quiet time in his bedroom but could open the door, so he and Murphy would lock it with a rope.

But Sheppard denied Murphy would ever hit her son aside from a ''light tap'' on his bottom.

''There was never any excessive force,'' he said.

Sheppard added the couple were never verbally abusive towards Sean and would only raise their voices to an acceptable level to tell him off.

Images shown to the inquest depicted an untidy house with a cigarette-filled ashtray, nappies on the floor even though Sean was  toilet trained, faeces on a bedroom floor, and clothes and toys spread throughout the house.

One image showed a chair in the kitchen with clippers on top and hair on the floor.

Sheppard said Murphy had cut his hair a few days earlier.

Coroner Alistair Hope asked why such a hazard was left on the chair and why the hair was not cleaned up, but Sheppard could not recall.

He said the kitchen door was always locked so Sean could not access the room.

Sheppard also denied Hope's suggestion the house was unhygienic and unfit for a child.

He said while the house was not immaculate, the images were not an accurate depiction.

Sheppard said he thought Murphy had been spoiling Sean with toys but described her as a loving mother.

''Sean's toy collection was immense,'' he said.

When Murphy called to tell him what happened to Sean, she was hysterical, Sheppard said.

He said Murphy did not usually take naps and added that if he had thought she would sleep most of the day, he would not have gone to work.

Hope is investigating how the boy became trapped in the machine and whether washing machine safety standards need improving.

The inquest continues.

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