Jailed: Blaze mum left kids alone to visit boyfriend
An Illawarra single mum has been jailed for at least six months after a horrific house fire almost claimed the lives of her three children, who she had left home alone while visiting her boyfriend.
The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, faced Wollongong Local Court for sentencing on Tuesday, where Magistrate Roger Clisdell sentenced her to a 20 month prison term with six months non parole.
According to court documents, the woman left her two younger children, a two-year-old girl and a four-month old baby boy, in the care of her 12-year-old daughter for 33 hours while she went to stay with her new boyfriend of just three weeks.
The mum first left the home at about 9pm on Saturday, March 2 with the intention of returning about 6am on Monday to get the children ready for school.
Despite asking a nearby neighbour to keep an eye on the children, they were left unattended for most of the weekend.
"This resulted in the 12-year-old child being responsible for her two-year-old sister and four-month-old brother," court documents read.
"She was expected to cook, clean and care for her younger siblings, which also included feeding and changing the baby's nappy."
At about 10.30pm on the Sunday evening, the 12-year-old girl went to the kitchen to cook a meal on the stovetop. While the food was cooking, the girl left the kitchen to check on her four-month-old brother, and ended up falling asleep next to him on the couch.
While she was asleep, the cooktop caught alight and fire soon spread around the kitchen, melting plastic items and releasing noxious smoke, which each of the sleeping children inhaled.
Just before 2am, the home's smoke alarm sounded, which garnered attention from the neighbours, who saw the fire through the kitchen window.
After rushing inside, the neighbours found the children, who had black soot marks visible around their mouths and noses, and called emergency services.
Fire and Rescue NSW crews arrived on scene and extinguished the blaze, while paramedics took the children to hospital where they were treated for carbon monoxide poisoning.
Police tried to contact the mother several times, but weren't able to reach her. When she arrived at the hospital some hours later, she told police her phone had died and that she didn't receive their messages until she charged it.
Court documents say she made admissions to leaving the children at home alone, telling police she had gone to stay with her boyfriend because it was a fresh relationship and she didn't want to introduce him to her children so early on.
As a result of the incident, which could have had deadly consequences, police charged her with three counts of failing to provide for a charge causing danger of death, to which she pleaded guilty.
On Tuesday, the court heard the woman had fallen in with the wrong crowd and been involved with drugs but was trying to turn her life around.
Magistrate Clisdell said despite the mother's efforts to better herself, the situation could have had a "tragic" ending.
"In what can only be described as for outrageously selfish reasons, she left her kids alone in the house and went off with her new boyfriends for [almost] 48hrs," he said.
The woman's eldest daughter was present in the courtroom on Tuesday, and cried hysterically as she was taken into custody.