Zayden's family welcomes life sentence

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LIFE SENTENCE Justice Kaye says what Hicks did was 'totally and utterly evil'

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THE family of Zayden Veal-Whitting has welcomed a life sentence for their son’s killer, but says it will never ease their pain.

Zayden’s father James Whitting, and his partner Michelle Kneebone, have spoken of their relief the monster who bludgeoned Zayden to death will not walk free for at least 32 years.

Justice Stephen Kaye today sentenced Harley Hicks, 21, of Long Gully, to life with a non-parole period of 32 years.

Hicks was out committing a series of burglaries in the Long Gully area overnight on June 14/15, 2012, when he entered Zayden's Eaglehawk Road home and killed him with a home-made baton.

Delivering his sentence in the Supreme Court in Bendigo, Justice Kaye said the killing was “totally and utterly evil’’ and Hicks' offending put his case "in the worst category of offences of murder which come before the courts''. ​

"All human life is sacrosanct, and the law does not differentiate between the life of one human being and another,’’ he said. 

“However, the life of a baby is particularly special and precious.

“"At the time of his death, Zayden was on the threshold of childhood, with the future before him.

“He was in the safety of his own home, secure in his own cot. He was, as any infant of that age would be, utterly harmless, defenceless and helpless. 

"Any human being, with even a shred of decency and humanity, could only feel compassion, tenderness and protectiveness towards an infant in those circumstances. 

"By contrast, you inflicted a brutal bashing, with a lethal instrument, on that baby.

“You crushed his skull, and savagely beat him with at least 30 blows.

“It is almost unthinkable that any human being could have carried out the sickening crime that you have committed. 

"What you did was totally and utterly evil.''

Mr Whitting yesterday said he was happy with a life sentence and Justice Kaye’s words brought some comfort, but it was difficult to put how he and his family were feeling into words.

“It’s hard to put words to the emotions. We got justice, but this still happened … it doesn’t bring Zayden back and doesn’t take away our pain,’’ he said.

“This is just one phase of our journey done.

“We didn’t think he would get life, but we are happy he did. If he gets out in 32 years, he won’t be a young man.

“At least now he can’t do this to anyone else.

“We are relieved he is not out in the community because we would not like anyone else to go through what we have been through. We have been through hell.

“But our focus needs to be on our lives, we need to live for Zayden and for Xavier … we’ve got to keep going for Xavier.

“But we don’t want anyone to forget about Zayden, he’s not just a story.

“He was a bright and happy child and we don’t want anyone to forget him.’’

Mr Whitting thanked Justice Kaye for the compassion he showed to all of Zayden’s family during the trial.

“We thank the judge for his consideration and kind words,’’ he said.

The family also thanks Victoria Police, particularly the homicide squad, for their commitment to the investigation.


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