Australia

Australian mother accused of murdering adult children

Police officers guide the woman into a car after her arrest Image copyright Queensland Police
Image caption The woman was arrested on Queensland's Gold Coast on Wednesday

An Australian woman has been accused of murdering two of her children and torturing a third, in alleged crimes that spanned at least five years.

Maree Crabtree, 51, was arrested on Queensland's Gold Coast on Wednesday.

Police allege she killed her daughter, 18, in 2012, and her son, 26, last year. Both had disabilities.

Authorities alleged Ms Crabtree was motivated by financial gain. Her lawyer, Emily Lewsey, said she would vigorously defend the charges.

Queensland Police said another of Ms Crabtree's daughters, now 25, had been tortured, causing her to suffer "significant harm over a significant period of time".

They did not detail the nature of any allegations.

"These are pre-meditated and calculated, financially driven crimes," said Insp Mark Thompson. "They are not the acts of a compassionate mother."

Fraud allegations

Local media named the alleged murder victims as Erin and Jonathan Crabtree. Their bodies were found, five years apart, in separate houses on Queensland's Gold Coast.

The deaths were initially treated as suicides until suspicions were later raised, the Courier Mail newspaper reported.

Police allege Maree Crabtree tried to make dishonest insurance claims worth almost A$1m (£600,000; $800,000) through death and other benefits.

She was charged with two counts of murder, as well as separate charges of torture, grievous bodily harm, fraud, attempted fraud, and armed robbery.

Insp Thompson said the investigation included alleged incidents that had happened in other Australian states.

"The family in question have a significant history within New South Wales and other states of Australia," he said.

'Traumatic' investigation

Police said they would not divulge details of the allegations until they were discussed in court.

Insp Thompson described it as a complex investigation that had "taken its toll" on investigators.

"It's extremely traumatic as investigators to see what has happened to these children over an extended period of time," he said.

It is alleged Ms Crabtree acted alone, he added.

Insp Thompson urged the public to inform authorities if they suspected vulnerable people were being exploited or abused.

Ms Crabtree faced a court in Brisbane on Wednesday and was remanded in custody.

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