William Tyrrell’s foster mother has pleaded guilty to assaulting a child but will fight allegations that she intimidated that child.
The 58-year-old woman fronted Parramatta Local Court on Monday with William’s foster father as they prepared to fight charges that emerged after police placed listening devices in their home as a part of the investigation into the boy’s disappearance.
She entered guilty pleas to two counts of common assault relating to a child who is not William and who cannot be identified for legal reasons.
One of the counts relates to the woman kicking the child in the thigh, the court heard.
However, she pleaded not guilty to two counts of intimidation and will defend the charges. The foster father, 56, has pleaded not guilty to one count of common assault and one count of intimidation.
The court heard that prosecutors were seeking to introduce several tapes into evidence in an attempt to prove a pattern of behaviour, one of which depicts a “smack, smack, smack” sound.
William was three when he vanished from his foster grandmother’s house at Kendall on the NSW mid-north coast on September 12, 2014.
The case attracted national attention and has become one of the state’s most notable cold cases. No one has been charged over the disappearance and suspected death, and his foster parents have continued to deny any wrongdoing.
The court heard one of the pieces of evidence, which police prosecutor John Marsh was seeking to tender, concerned a recording from the family home in which the smacking sound could be heard.
However, the prosecution did concede that there was no evidence it depicted a child being struck and the noise could have been made by an object striking a wall or object.
The court heard that there was tension within the house after the couple took on another foster child and the alleged victim thought she was being excluded and ignored.
The foster mother said she would speak with someone about “in effect ending the child’s custody with her”, defence barrister John Stratton SC told the court.
Magistrate Susan McIntrye on Monday said she would allow the tendency evidence to be tendered during the hearing. “I would really categorise the material relied upon in relation to (the foster mother’s) conduct as threats and warnings as to what will happen in relation to continuing behaviours,” Ms McIntrye said.
The hearing will resume on Tuesday.
The foster parents are also set to plead guilty to downgraded charges after they had another person place dummy bids at the auction of their Sydney home, which eventually sold for $4.1m.
The matter was mentioned briefly in court on Monday. Both previously pleaded not guilty to one count of dishonestly obtaining a financial advantage by deception. The court earlier this year heard the fraud charges were to be withdrawn and would be replaced by regulatory charges, which they would plead guilty to.
They will instead be charged with procuring a third party to make dummy bids, in contravention of the Property and Stock Agents Act, which carries a maximum penalty of $27,500.
The court heard on Monday that these charges will be dealt with at a later date.
As part of the plea, the couple admitted they engaged a man to make false bids at an auction for their northern Sydney property in December 2020 after pleading guilty to lesser charges.
According to court documents, the man was hired to help inflate the property’s sale price between December 10 and 12, 2020.