Boy, 9, begged not to be returned to father before being murdered: 'Don't send me back to daddy'

The mother of a murdered 9-year-old Australian boy is seeking answers after authorities allegedly ignored her concerns about her ex-partner's abusive nature and continued to let the child stay with him, the Canberra Times reports. 

At an inquest into the child's death on Wednesday, the mother of Bradyn Dillon, whom the newspaper did not identify, said that she wished somebody had listened to her from the start. The mother, who lives in Victoria, claimed that Bradyn's father, Graham, 41, would often lie to those around them in order to keep their child in Canberra — where he lived — and repeatedly beat him. 

"Graham was a master manipulator," she told the Coroner's Court of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). 

Bradyn died on February 15, 2016, after Graham killed him with a blow to the head, according to the Times. Graham had reportedly told the boy to bend over a marble coffee table before hitting him with a belt. He also allegedly kicked Bradyn in the abdomen and punched him several times before the 9-year-old fell unconscious. The father is now serving more than 36 years in jail for his murder. 

The inquest into Bradyn's murder is now examining how he became so vulnerable. It is also looking into the response from both law enforcement and officials from ACT's health, education and child services agencies. 

Upon questioning by Joe Kellaway — a lawyer who represented those three agencies — on Wednesday, the child's mother acknowledged that Graham was always a step ahead of her but also explained how overwhelmed she felt with the number of services she had to contact. 

"I didn't know which direction to take, there's no guidelines," she said. "I was stuck. I didn't know where to turn."

The mother criticized the complexity of the entire system, noting how powerless she felt in her bid to get her son back.

"With a lot of people in my position, we don't know the law courts," she said. "You don't ever know what you can do, but when you get in that situation, you're helpless."

Bradyn's stepmother — who married Graham in 2013 and subsequently took the boy in amid the birth mother's family issues — spoke at the inquest as well, detailing how physically and emotionally abusive Graham was during their time together. In one instance, for example, the father purportedly used a wire coat hanger to strangle her. In another, he apparently broke a guitar over her legs. 

The stepmother also seemed to confirm the birth mother's claim that Graham was manipulative, claiming that he would tell Bradyn that his own mother was on drugs and that "mummy's not the same mummy, mate." Bradyn's stepmother eventually left Graham and was granted a domestic violence order against him, according to the Times. 

On Tuesday, the child's mother revealed at a hearing that she had met Graham in Tasmania in 2002. Throughout their relationship, she said he was "controlling, rough and dominating" and would regularly beat her. By the time the two had separated and Bradyn's stepmother had been given a domestic violence order, the 9-year-old's own mother had gotten her own domestic violence order against Graham. Graham reportedly retaliated by also seeking a protection order against the mother. 

Bradyn's mother also confessed that she had attempted to drug Graham in 2014 in an attempt to get her son back. In November of that year, the woman said she was visiting Canberra when she slipped 300 grams of Seroquel — an antipsychotic —in Graham's coffee. She then took Bradyn back to Victoria, but authorities later arrived at her home to retrieve him. 

During one encounter with care and protection workers, the mother recalled her son screaming, "Don't send me back to daddy." The child had been strangled and kicked not long before, she said. The mother added that workers had also heard that Graham had tried to drown him. 

Still, authorities purportedly dismissed the mother at times and failed to keep Bradyn in her care. At one point, they even deemed the child's birth mother suitable to take care of her son and applied to have him in her custody, but Graham successfully fought that application by citing his protection order — which covered the boy's well-being — against her. Records later showed that Bradyn cried when he learned that he would be returned to his father.

The child, whom teachers described as very polite and courteous, was murdered after child protection services closed his file and he was unenrolled from a school, the Times notes. In the four months leading to his death, Bradyn had been imprisoned in Graham's home, Kellaway, the lawyer, told the ACT Coroner's Court. The father had been able to take his son out of classes because he had told the child's school that the two were moving elsewhere, Kellaway added. 

"Bradyn had been slipped by a lie into a vacuum," the barrister said. 

The judicial inquiry into Bradyn's death comes just months after a 4-year-old California boy died mysteriously under his parents' care after he too had begged not to be reunited with them. Officials in that case have yet to arrest that child's parents. 

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