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Willow Dunn: Body of 4-year-old with Down Syndrome found eaten by rats after dad left her to starve to death

The horrific details of Willow Dunn's death were made public on Tuesday, May 26, a day after her 43-year-old father Mark James Dunn was charged with his daughter's murder
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The body of a four-year-old toddler with Down Syndrome who allegedly starved to death after she was left to die by her father was found decomposed and eaten by rats, according to police authorities. The horrific details of Willow Dunn's death were made public on Tuesday, May 26, a day after her 43-year-old father, Mark James Dunn, was charged with her murder.

After the police found his daughter's half-eaten corpse at his home in Cannon Hill, Brisbane, the accused told authorities that he had discovered that the victim had died on Saturday, May 23, but refrained from informing emergency services. He waited till Monday morning to make the call. As a result, the toddler's body, which was left to rot in the cot, was badly mauled by rats.

Willow was born with Down Syndrome and grew up without a mother after the latter died from complications during childbirth.  She lived with her father, her stepmother and a stepsister. It is still being determined if she starved to death and if she was denied proper medications. Her body was found in a back bedroom inside the rented home. According to a preliminary investigation, the victim had burns to her scalp and bone-deep infected sores on her hips. 

The unnamed stepmother and stepsister have not been charged in relation to the toddler's death as there has been no evidence of any wrongdoing on their parts. The Department of Child Safety confirmed that it had contacted the victim's family in the past in relation to Willow. The competency of the child protection agency has been brought into question in light of this case. 

Liberal National Party Shadow Police Minister Dan Purdie told Courier-Mail: "The big question in such a horrific case of alleged neglect is how a vulnerable young child has slipped through the cracks and how this could have been prevented."

A teddy bear was placed near one of the windows of the house where the incident took place while an abandoned pram lay in the garden in front of the house. After learning about the shocking news of the toddler's death, neighbors gathered near the victim's house to lay down flowers although many of them admitted that they had never laid their eyes on Willow despite the family moving into the house a year ago.

"They’ve been there for that long and we didn’t know a little girl lived there," one neighbor said. "That’s the big take-home for me. I can’t believe it." The police said that they are set to claim that the victim was left without food for days and as a result, was malnourished before her ultimate death. Mark has been charged with a new definition of murder in Queensland, which includes "reckless indifference to human life" which is aimed at child killers. He did not appear in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Tuesday, May 23, when the case was briefly mentioned. The case remains adjourned until July 20. 

The victim's family had also previously had contact with the charitable organization, Down Syndrome Queensland. The chief executive of the charity Darryl Steff said: "We are very saddened about the death of Willow. It is unacceptable for a child to die... regardless of disability." Child Safety Minister Di Farmer said: "The death of any child is a tragedy. I know the death of this little girl has had a profound impact on our community and my deepest sympathies go to those who knew and loved this child."