Hicks to be sentenced for baby murder

GUILTY: Harley Hicks will be sentenced on June 13 for the murder of Bendigo baby Zayden Veal-Whitting.
GUILTY: Harley Hicks will be sentenced on June 13 for the murder of Bendigo baby Zayden Veal-Whitting.

The Harley Hicks trial:Day by day coverage

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HARLEY Hicks will be sentenced for the murder of Bendigo baby Zayden Veal-Whitting next week.

Zayden was struck at least 25 times to the head and killed with a home-made baton while sleeping in his cot during a burglary at his Long Gully home in the early hours of June 15, 2012.

Hicks, 21, of Long Gully, was found guilty of the infant's murder by a Supreme Court jury in April.

In her opening address to the court at the beginning of a five-week trial, Crown prosecutor Michele Williams SC said Hicks as “a burglar, a thief, a liar and a killer''.

"Let me put it bluntly to you, he bashed that child to death with sufficient force to cause those very serious injuries,'' she said.

Forensic pathologist Jacqueline Lee told the court Zayden suffered “a minimum of 25 injuries to the face, and a minimum of eight injuries to the scalp” caused by severe force from a blunt object.

Justice Stephen Kaye thanked the jury for their commitment to a "tragic and sad case''.

"This case has been harrowing. By any stretch of the imagination, it has been utterly harrowing. The facts involve an appallingly brutal murder of a young baby,'' he said.

The Crown has called for a life sentence with a minimum term.

In calling for life, the Crown asked Justice Kaye to compare Hicks to Robert Farquharson and Arthur Freeman, both of whom killed their children.

Ms Williams said while child killings which were acts of revenge against a partner were “abhorrent,’’ they had explanation.

 “There is, whether we like it or not, an explanation,’’ she said.

“But this is different and in some ways maybe worse, because it's the cold, calculated killing of a baby, if you like, in a vacuum.

"We do maintain the submission for a life sentence and we do say that it is, however, appropriate for Your Honour to impose a minimum term.’’

But Zayden's mother Casey Veal hopes her son's killer never walks free, saying he should never again have freedom.

"It makes me mad that maybe in 30 years when he is 51 ... he could live happily,'' she said. 

"He took Zayden's life, he took what was left of mine and James (Zayden's father), and anybody else around us who had any hope for the future.

"He can, in the long run, get privileges if he does the right thing ... but what gives him the right? Zayden never got to go to kinder, let alone primary school or high school or uni.

"But there's nothing I can do about it other than sit at the parole hearings every time they come and in 25 or 30 years, Xavier will be old enough to stand up against him at a parole hearing. He will be able to say I'm now an adult and this is what it has done to me.''

Hicks will be sentenced in the Supreme Court on June 13.


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