Dad sent ex-wife 'polite' texts before murdering four-year-old daughter and killing himself
An inquest has found Eeva Dorendahl died 'as a result of her father's actions' after the four-year-old was reported missing by her mother on January 11, 2014.
More than five years ago, the bodies of Greg Hutchings, 35, and his four-year-old daughter Eeva Dorendahl were discovered in the sand dunes of the Tweed Coast under the shade of a bush.
While it is still unclear how the young girl and her father died, disturbing details that led up to the haunting discovery in the northern New South Wales were laid bare Wednesday in the findings of an inquest, news.com.au reports.
Eeva had been visiting her father for the Christmas break in 2013 when the pair were staying at the Pottsville residence of Hutchings' mother Diana, the inquest heard. Just days into the vacation, the dad and daughter suddenly disappeared on January 11, 2014.
Michelle Dorendahl, Eeva's mother and Hutchings' ex-partner, saw her daughter and husband for the last time in person when she dropped them at Nambour railway station, a two-hour drive from the residence, just days before Christmas.
It was learned that the relationship between Eeva's parents had already turned "irreconcilable" by 2011 before they separated. Eeva was two years old at the time. “From that time, until the tragic events of 11 January, 2014, there were periods of contact and communication, but the relationship between Greg and Michelle was strained and emotionally difficult,” coroner Teresa O’Sullivan told the inquest.
An investigation revealed how Hutchings had been sending a series of texts and emails to his former partner in the days that led up to the disappearance.
According to police, the messages “gave no indication that he was an immediate danger to Eeva or himself”. On January 8, Eeva's mother asking him when she could pick her daughter up at Nambour station.
He responded the following day. “Hi Michelle, Sorry grandma was on my phone and I didn’t get your msgs (sic) til (sic) after Eeva’s bedtime," he wrote, "She is fine and happy, but I’ve been up all night vomiting and with the runs. I can’t do 9 hours of public transport today. You’re welcome to come pick Eeva up at Pottsville today or I will bring her to Nambour tomorrow or Saturday when I’m better. Happy to pick Eeva up a day or two later next visit to make up the time. Not withholding so don’t make a big deal out of it, just let me know. Skype around ten a.m. if you like and call whenever you want. Sorry again for the muck around, I think it was something I ate. Truly, Greg.”
Hutchings sent his ex-wife another message the following day. “I’ve had another rough night but a bit better than the last one. Eeva has been up and is a bit cranky but not sick- I'm letting her sleep in for a bit,” he wrote. “Let me know if you want to come pick Eeva up today, otherwise we’ll be on the train to Nambour tomorrow.”
Dorendahl chatted with her daughter on video later that day. It would be the last time she saw her alive.
The mother was driving down to pick Eeva up the next day when she received a text from her ex-husband, reading: “Taken Eeva to the river mouth next to the park at Postville (sic). Call when you get here if you don’t see us”.
When she arrived in Pottsville, Dorendahl learned both her ex-husband and daughter were not at home. While authorities began searching for the pair the same day, the coroner said there was “no doubt that the gravity of the circumstances was not entirely obvious early in the incident" as Hutchings had “failed to return Eeva previously, had been polite to Michelle Dorendahl in recent texts and emails and lived with his mother in a house that was orderly."
Their bodies were eventually recovered by State Emergency Service searchers 17 days later under a large pandanus tree on Pottsville Beach. Owing to the time it took to find the bodies, the coroner said it was difficult to determine the cause behind the father and daughter's deaths. Nonetheless, she could confirm that Hutchings took his own life and that both he and his daughter had died between January 11 and 18.
“Eeva died while in the care of her father, Greg Hutchings, and she died as a result of her father’s actions,” the coroner said, although what those actions were is still unclear. While emergency searchers recovered knives and razor blades at the scene, forensic tests found no tears, cuts, or bloodstains on the clothing of either the father or his daughter.
The coroner said that taking into consideration circumstantial evidence, she was “satisfied on the balance of probabilities that Greg caused her (Eeva’s) death, by some means, possibly by using the drugs that he had taken with him to cause her to overdose."
That said, Hutchings had a “history of depression and anxiety” from a young age, and had “previously been so overwrought after a relationship breakup” that he had resorted to self-harm. In an attempt to deal with his mental problems, the embattled father consumed alcohol and went heavy on prescription drugs, the inquest heard.
“There is sufficient evidence that Greg Hutchings had declining mental health at the time he was responsible for the death of Eeva and himself,” the coroner said. “That does not excuse the actions he took which led to Eeva’s death, but it does help to understand why a father who loved his daughter and loved his own mother and extended family, would commit such an act, that is anathema to the role of a parent to protect their child.”
But she also said Hutchings may not have originally intended to take his daughter's life. “It may be that Greg initially took Eeva with a plan to hide out for a period of time, before deciding what to do,” she said. “However, I am satisfied that at some stage, he formed a view that he could not keep living and could not return Eeva, and so he put into place a plan that resulted in both of their deaths.”