The Crown today called for a life sentence for Harley Hicks, who was last month found guilty by a Supreme Court jury of murdering 10-month-old baby Zayden Veal-Whitting.
Following are excerpts taken from Zayden's grandparents victim impact statements read in the Supreme Court.
The hospital contacted me and I was scared and afraid of what had happened to one of our children. Now I am angry and upset about the impact on our whole family. For a time I slept in the lounge room because I was anxious about our security at home. I was afraid that someone would break into our home. My daughter was also afraid and would sleep in the lounge with me. The impact on my life now means that I don't enjoy meeting new people and I even stay away from my siblings, excepting my brother. I have withdrawn from people. It has also been difficult at home, I find I am more often upset and snappy with my husband and daughter. One of the hardest things is that Zayden reminded me of my son, James, as a little baby. I know one shouldn't have favourites but Zayden was, there was just something about his beautiful big eyes and his cheeky smile that really made me happy. The stress has affected my health.
When this first happened we were notified by a nurse at the Bendigo Hospital that something had happened to Zayden and asked to get our son James to the hospital. My wife Anne and James drove to the hospital, passing the house on the way. It was surrounded by police cars. They knew something was seriously wrong. When they arrived they were taken in to a private room with Casey then told Zayden had died. It was also the day after the anniversary of our son Liam dying. I received a phone call from Anne to go to the hospital just after they were told. When I arrived I was told Zayden had died. I was asked to ring my brother Andrew and notify him. Andrew and his family arrived about 20 minutes later. No one knew what to say, we were all in shock.
Since this crime occurred I am fearful for the safety of all my children and grandchildren. I now believe Bendigo to be unsafe to bring up a family. My daughter, the youngest, is now 15 and a half years' of age and going to school in Bendigo. I am always scared something will happen to her. My wife drives her 30 kilometres to school and picks her up most days unless a family member picks her up. When this first happened our family doctor ... advised me to take a month's sick leave as the stress was too much to bear. I finally went back to work, not to my normal shift as I could not leave my family at night. My daughter would not sleep in her own room. My wife and daughter would sleep together in the lounge room. I would find it hard to get to sleep, waking at the slightest noise. In getting up during the night to check doors and windows were locked. It's so hard to look at my other grandchildren and not be thinking of what Zayden would look like now, how he would love to be playing with his big brother, Xaviour, and his cousins. I feel so sorry for Xavier who had to witness his baby brother's face and his mother's trauma that morning. My family and I discuss leaving Bendigo with our victims of crime counsellor. He asked us to wait 12 months and not to do anything in haste. As soon as the 12 months was up we had to get out of the house and get out of Bendigo. I find it hard to trust people I now meet. I cannot now stand people wearing hoodies. My wife wanted to buy me one. I told her, I'm not a criminal, and would not be seen dead in one. Only criminals wear them.
People at work would avoid me and try not to talk to me. I suppose they did not know how to approach me. I also find I am now being grumpy. My wife tells me. She also tells me I'm very impatient now with the children. She tells me I have changed. Yet I would give my own life to have Zayden back in my son's arms. My wife, Anne and I, have been in court or outside the court every day, being here to represent our little grandson. We have bought a smaller house 40 kilometre away from drug dealers and that ilk that live in Bendigo. My wife and I cannot take any victims of crime moneys as it would impact on people that need it more.