A Melbourne father who murdered his two young daughters dressed the girls in white dresses and filmed them dancing to a song from the movie Frozen before suffocating them, a court has heard.
Four-year-old Savannah and her three-year-old Indianna were killed by their father Charles Mihayo, 36, on Easter Sunday while their mother waited just metres away, in a nearby building.
Within an hour of the girls arriving, Mihayo had bathed and dressed them, filmed them dancing to the song Let it go, and then killed them, the Supreme Court heard at a plea hearing on Wednesday.
Mihayo pleaded guilty to two counts of murder over his daughters’ deaths, before a Supreme Court justice in September, but has never offered an explanation for what motivated the killings.
On Wednesday, prosecutor Gavin Silbert, QC, laid out the crown case that Mihayo killed his daughters as an act of revenge against the girls’ mother, with whom he’d fought for access to his children since a separation in 2009.
Mihayo and the former partner had both engaged the help of lawyers weeks before the tragedy, and four days before killing the girls Mihayo had Googled the question: “How can I kill my ex-wife,” the Supreme Court heard.
Defence barrister Tim Marsh said while Mihayo had offered no explanation for what he’d done, there were possible clues in something he’d told police.
Mihayo, a Tanzanian national who never knew his own father, had indicated “that there was some particular horror in his mind that his children would grow up without knowing their father,” Mr Marsh said.
“I thought, ‘Well if the kids are not there they’re not gong to suffer the way I suffered knowing dad is somewhere but you never get to see him,'” Mihayo had told police, according to the transcript read in court.
But Mr Marsh also said Mihayo had advised him not to offer any explanation to the court that might justify his actions and expressed a desire that justice be fully served for his daughters.
Shortly before the murders, Mihayo had told his former partner he would relinquish his rights as a father, ending the fighting, and asked for a visit to “say goodbye” and “see them one last time,” the court heard.
The following day he spent the morning shopping for his daughters, buying them white dresses and formal shoes, Mr Silbert told the court.
At about 2pm on April 20, the mother, whose identity has been suppressed, had taken the girls to the self-contained unit at the rear of a house in Watsonia where Mihayo was living.
About half an hour later, Mihayo called police and reported a double homicide at his address.
Earlier, one of the girls had been seen by her mother dancing outside the unit in her new dress and Mihayo was heard to call out to the girl, “Come back inside, we’ll show mum something else in 10 minutes,” Mr Silbert told the court.
The mother had waited in the adjacent house, returning to the unit a short time later when she could no longer hear the children playing.
She called police after Mihayo failed to let her into the unit, instead yelling out “you will know when they get here”.
When police arrived Mihayo opened the door with a towel in his hands and said, “It’s done. I’ve killed them. I’ve killed my kids,” and immediately admitted to suffocating them with a pillow, the court heard.
A note later found on Mihayo’s phone, which had been edited the day before the murders, had stated “Do you really believe I would give you my flesh and blood just like that?,” Mr Silbert read to the court.
But Mihayo has maintained he had not planned to kill the girls. “It just happened right there and then. I was just going to say goodbye to the girls until that particular moment when it happened,” Mihayo told police, according to a transcript read out in court.
Mr Marsh said the thing Mihayo had intended to show the girls’ mother when he called their eldest back into the house was bunny ears he planned to dress them in, and Easter eggs.
Supreme Court Justice Lex Lasry said the public needed to know what could drive a man to kill his children.
“I think people need to know what happened,”Justice Lasry told Mr Marsh.
“Your client, as I understand it, is in possession of an explanation that he simply refuses to give.”
The mother of the girls was not in court on Wednesday but has previously released a short statement saying she was “utterly devastated” at the loss of the girls.
Mr Marsh said Mihayo’s remorse, if accepted by the court, was what would set him apart from other recent cases involving Victorian men who had murdered their own children.
Robert Farquharson was sentenced to life with a minimum of 33 years behind bars for driving his his three sons into a dam on Fathers Day in 2005.
Arthur Freeman, who threw his four-year-old daughter off the West Gate Bridge in 2009, is serving a life sentence with a minimum of 32 years.
Justice Lasry is expected to set a date to sentence Mihayo within the next month.
Source: The Age