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I have lost my faith and trust in justice, says Greta bus crash victim’s mum

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A family, impacted by the devastating Greta bus tragedy, has lost all faith in the judicial system, according to Upper Hunter MP Dave Layzell.

The local member, along with Singleton mayor Sue Moore and her Cessnock counterpart Jay Suvaal, was front and centre for the community – and those affected by the incident – immediately after the Sunday 11 June 2023 crash, which claimed 10 lives.

Driver Brett Button lost control of the vehicle he was driving at the roundabout on Wine Country Drive, killing mother-and-daughter Nadene and Kyah McBride, husband-and-wife Andrew and Lynan Scott, Kane Symons, Rebecca Mullen, Darcy Bulman, Zach Bray, Tori Cowburn and Angus Craig.

Not surprisingly, police booked him for countless offences.

Upper Hunter MP Dave Layzell (second from left) with members of the Singleton Roosters AFC Club. Photo: Rod Thompson

But, earlier this month, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) stunned everyone by making a deal to drop the 10 manslaughter charges, allowing the 59-year-old to enter guilty pleas for the lesser crime, dangerous driving occasioning death.

Fronting the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday 15 May, Mr Layzell delivered an emotional address to NSW Parliament on behalf of Rebecca’s parents, Leanne and Matt, in the wake of the outcome.

“It is important that I speak on behalf of a community that is upset and dismayed by how the justice system has played out,” he said.

“In particular, I refer to the recent decision by the DPP to accept a downgraded guilty plea deal by the driver of the bus involved in the incident.

“The implications of that are significant.

“The manslaughter charge carries a 25-year term, whereas the charge of dangerous driving occasioning death carries a maximum 10-year term.

“Knowing that the sentence will almost certainly be less than the maximum, and with a 25% reduction due to the guilty plea, an offender could be out on parole in just a few years.

“Our justice system needs to be fair… and it needs to be seen as fair by our whole community.

“It’s an important part of the grieving process for the victims, victims’ families and victims-survivors.

“We rely on the DPP to do its job to the best of its ability and with the fullness of its reach.

“They are independent but not above criticism.

“It is important to place on the record the impact of the DPP’s decision on the people it affects.”

Mr Layzell then read a statement by Leanne Mullen:

“As you know, my daughter Rebecca Mullen was one of the 10 people who lost their lives in the Hunter Valley bus crash on 11 June 2023, almost 12 months ago.

“On that night we received a call from friends travelling behind the bus about what had happened and, told that they couldn’t find Bec, our son spoke with a person very close to us who told him that Bec had passed away.

“When we arrived, we were kept away from the scene by police who I acknowledge were doing their job in a respectful and responsible manner.

“I wonder if anyone can imagine what it is like to live with the fact that you stood 20 metres away from your daughter’s dead body, being denied access to your baby girl.

“What it is like to repeatedly try and hold your husband and son back from their desperate attempts to get to her. To listen to police being quite vague and using terms like ‘missing’ and ‘unaccounted for’ in reference to someone that you love. To know that you couldn’t hold your baby close, while her body was still warm and her spirit still evident. To not be able to kiss her forehead, hold her hand, tell her we were there for her, that she was not alone and say all you needed to say about how much she was loved, how proud we were of the person she had become, how we promise we will carry her memory with us for as long as we live.

“Being denied these moments have tormented me.

I did that because I had a strong belief, a trust, that in sacrificing my rights as a mother to hold my daughter close as she left this Earth, the police were gathering evidence that could be used to ensure justice was done in relation to this crime.

Leanne Mullen

“In fact, as I have slowly gained more knowledge, the first 48 hours after the incident haunt me. I didn’t know this at the time as we were blocking all information from news outlets to try and deal with what had occurred in private.

“My daughter ceased being a person that night, instead becoming a piece of scientific evidence.

“Not blaming the police, they were doing their job, but that is the harsh reality. Her body was an object to be studied, measured, photographed.

“I wonder if anyone realises that my daughter’s body laid with her friends in the cold, inside the bus, against the concrete gutter and metal guard rail for close to 48 hours before she was moved.

“It is irrational in all ways, I know, but I am haunted knowing how cold it was on those nights and I wasn’t there for her. It keeps going over and over in my head that if I had been paying attention, I could have taken her a blanket and asked that they keep her warm.

“I want people to think back to the footage shown to the nation repeatedly of the bus being on its side, my daughter is in there.

“Footage of the bus being righted, it bouncing on the road as it landed. It was a ‘delicate’ operation apparently as the victims were still inside the bus it was reported.

“My head has been torturing me constantly thinking about what they did to my daughter’s body during that process.

“Was she tied down, was she taped down, was she so tangled in the seats that she didn’t move, did they just let her fall. Every scenario, over and over in my head, night after night.

“We did not get to see our daughter for over two weeks after the accident and when we did it was in a cold and sterile morgue.

“I have kept this part of my grief and journey over the past 11 months to myself.

“I did that because I had a strong belief, a trust, that in sacrificing my rights as a mother to hold my daughter close as she left this Earth, the police were gathering evidence that could be used to ensure justice was done in relation to this crime.

“Accountability would come by using the evidence they collected over those 48 hours. That my sacrifice as a mum would be worth something meaningful in time.

“Sadly, it wasn’t the case.

“My daughter and her friends weren’t worth the effort of a trial.

“I have lost my faith and trust in justice.

“The powerlessness of it all is crippling. The realisation that the truth is not your right to understand is confronting.

“It has torn apart any progress we have made recovering from this nightmare we find ourselves in.

“I am the one with the life sentence of knowing that the people who could make a difference decided that they would not fight to properly honour Rebecca and her friends in the way they deserve.

“They decided to do what was easy and timely, rather than what was right.

“I cannot reconcile that in my head at all and will be hurt by this decision every day for the rest of my life.”

Mr Layzell then finished by adding: “May the victims rest in peace. May the victims-survivors’ journey of recovery continue. And, may the families remember that the love of our community will always be there for them, as we know that their grief will be eternal.”

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