The grieving mum of a little girl who died from malnutrition has broken her silence to pay tribute to her ‘cheeky’ daughter and hit out at claims she did not feed her kids.
Six-year-old Charlie was found unresponsive at her family’s housing commission home in Munno Para, in Adelaide‘s northern suburbs, in the early hours of Friday morning.
It’s since been revealed that Charlie was suffering from coeliac disease – a severe immune disorder in which the digestive system reacts to gluten.
Her shattered mum Crystal Nowland was seen publicly for the first time since her daughter’s death on Wednesday as police arrived at the home to continue inquiries.
She broke down in tears as she remembered her ‘headstrong’ little girl with a ‘cheeky smile’, who made her family laugh by pulling pranks.
Ms Nowland said she feels ‘lost’ without her daughter and did her best as a mother, even pleading for extra help from the department of child protection – that she claims never came.
‘I’m not a perfect mum, but I’m not the mum they’ve made me out to be,’ she told The Advertiser.
‘I might do things arse to front, back to front, but I fed them all the time.’
Charlie was found unresponsive at her family’s housing commission home in Munno Para, in Adelaide ‘s northern suburbs, on Friday
Charlie’s mum (pictured) has been seen publicly for the first time in five days since her daughter’s tragic death
Ms Nowland said every Thursday when her pay came through she would be at the local Foodland first thing in the morning to shop.
She said she was not aware Charlie was coeliac until after her death and the Coroner told her on Monday the little girl had hereditary heart disease.
They explained her the condition affected blood flow to Charlie’s heart and there was nothing she could have done to save her.
Ms Nowland said she misses her daughter’s nagging and antics, which included replacing the family’s hair conditioner with superglue – a trick she learnt from a TikTok video.
The mother-of-six said her daughter did not seem ill leading up to her death and had a healthy appetite, with a particular love for mashed potatoes.
Ms Nowland said her children never went without food and that she asked family services for more support after her partner was arrested for stabbing her in the neck in January last year.
Ms Nowland is seen at the family’s Munno Para home on Thursday
The house Charlie died in was surrounded by junk – old toys, a tent, bikes and a disused freezer
In the wake of the horror attack which took place in front of Charlie, she had to learn how to walk again, was having seizures, and struggling to remember how to perform basic tasks like cook rice or drive a car.
However, the single parenting courses she requested never eventuated and despite asking for help, her visits from wellbeing workers did not increase.
The department visited Charlie two days before her death but did not seem concerned about her welfare.
‘They were talking to Charlie, they could see Charlie. Why didn’t they say something? If they reckoned there were any concerns why didn’t they say something or take her?’ Ms Nowland said.
Ms Nowland said she would always remember her daughter’s ‘cheeky smile’
The devastated mother said her daughter would always make the family laugh with her pranks
Earlier on Wednesday, neighbours spoke out to defend Ms Nowland, claiming she was failed by child protection authorities, who they say should have done more to help her.
‘She watched her child die … any mother who has gone through that would be traumatised and scared and confused and just heartbroken that her child, her baby that she carried for nine months, is gone,’ one told the Adelaide Advertiser.
Several neighbours explained they don’t blame the mother for Charlie’s death, and claim authorities did nothing to support her in the ways she needed help as they revealed plans to launch a #justiceforcharlie campaign.
‘It’s just another step in the process of getting answers for Charlie, and that’s what we really want,’ one said.
‘There are no words to describe the amount of anger all of us on the street here have for the family.’
A school counsellor recently visited the home due to the non-attendance of two of the children, one of whom was Charlie.
Charlie (pictured) died on the floor of her mother’s house in an alleged case of criminal neglect
The cause of death is still unknown, but a neighbour said Charlie had something in her throat when she died (family home, pictured)
Charlie’s death – which has been officially recorded as malnutrition – sparked a major crimes investigation by police and has led her five siblings to be taken into the care of the state as their mother is investigated for alleged criminal neglect.
Just two weeks ago, Charlie – dressed in a baby-pink tracksuit and broad-brimmed hat – posed for a photo at her family home hunched over with her eyes closed.
It’s believed to be the last ever photo of her.
Acting Premier Susan Close has announced a government review will investigate interactions between Charlie’s family and the state’s human services, child protection, education and housing agencies and if ‘lessons’ could have been learned.
The chief executive of the Department of Premier and Cabinet will determine which services were engaged, how they collaborated, how effective they were, and what changes might be required.
Outside the home on Tuesday, Charlie’s aunt – wearing a pink hoodie with a slogan that read ‘but did you die? #mumlife’ – lashed out at media when asked how the six-year-old’s mother was feeling.
Pictured: This, the last known photo of Charlie, taken two weeks before her tragic death
Debris, including an old mattress, bedding, and unused rabbit hutch, were seen scattered around the yard of the home on Tuesday
The grass was overgrown and the yard littered with kids toys and miscellaneous items
‘How do you think she’s feeling? Her daughter just died in her arms! Of course she’s upset.’
One neighbour, Bec, told Daily Mail Australia the girl’s mum had raised the alarm late at night – leading her to do everything she could to try and save Charlie’s life.
‘It was about 1 am and we were about to go to sleep, and we heard this banging on the door. Charlie’s mum was screaming, ‘Charlie isn’t breathing!’ so we raced over there.
‘She was on the floor in a nappy, and she was paper white … and when I touched her, she was stone cold, and her eyes were open and fixated on the ceiling.
‘We did everything to try and get Charlie to breathe.’
Paramedics arrived soon after and worked on Charlie for half an hour, but the six-year-old was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Charlie’s aunt visited the home on Tuesday wearing a pink hoodie with a slogan that read: ‘But did you die? #mumlife (pictured, left)