Man charged with murder of Long Gully baby

A man accused of murdering 10-month-old baby Zayden Veal-Whitting in Bendigo has a mild intellectual disability, a court has heard.

Harley Hicks, 19, appeared briefly in the Melbourne Magistrates Court yesterday afternoon to be formally charged with murdering Zayden.

Police had been called to Zayden’s home in Eaglehawk Road, Long Gully, after a reported burglary about 7am on June 15. But as police were on their way to the house they received a further call to say Zayden had been taken to hospital in an ambulance.

Zayden, who is believed to have suffered head injuries, later died.

Prosecuting, Luke Exell told the court yesterday the police brief of evidence against Hicks was expected to be handed to his legal aid lawyers by December 17 and a committal mention date had been set down for January 28 next year at the Bendigo Magistrates Court.

No details of what happened to Zayden were read out in court.

At one stage during the brief hearing, the well-built, tattooed Hicks had his head in his hands.

Wearing a bright-green T-shirt, Hicks was also wearing glasses and would occasionally take them on and off as he looked around the courtroom. 

Ms Popovic formally remanded Hicks in custody to appear in Bendigo in January.

As he was being led from court, Hicks bowed to the magistrate.

The court had earlier heard Hicks had a mild intellectual disability.

Hicks, of Bendigo North, became the prime suspect in Zayden’s murder after forensic evidence cleared the boy’s parents of killing him.

He had been in custody when charged by homicide detectives yesterday.

Hicks was serving a sentence of 12 months’ youth detention after pleading guilty to 23 offences including burglary, aggravated burglary and theft committed between May 16 and June 15 in Long Gully, Bendigo and Bendigo North.

He had denied any involvement in the baby’s death. 

On the day of Zayden’s funeral, his family – Casey, James, Matthew and Michelle – paid tribute to their “beautiful child” by releasing a statement that said: “We cannot convey the deep pain and overwhelming feelings of grief, sadness and sorrow at the loss of our beloved child Zayden who was taken from us on the 15th of June. We loved him deeply.’’

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