Hicks gets life

Christine McGinn | Bendigo Weekly | 13-Jun-2014

Zayden Veal-Whiting.

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Disbelief, shock and horror

"It was all very scary"

Harley Hicks has been sentenced to life with a non-parole period of 32 years for the murder of 10-and-a-half-month old Zayden Veal-Whitting.

Justice Stephen Kaye said the crime was the most serious category of murder that came before the courts and the penalty must be sufficient to deter others from harming any other children.

"A sentence of life imprisonment has been correctly described as a dreadful sentence, which should be reserved for dreadful cases," he said.

"The fact that you are young, only 21 years of age, is an important factor militating against the imposition of a life sentence in your case.

"Giving that factor, and all of the factors in your favour, full weight, I am nevertheless driven to the conclusion that a sentence of life imprisonment is the only appropriate sentence in the circumstances of this case.

“If I were to impose any lesser sentence on you, this Court would have failed in its duty to properly express the condemnation and abhorrence of the court, and the community, of your crime, and it would have failed in its duty to do its best to protect the young and vulnerable members of our society, by ensuring that the sentence imposed on you is, to the fullest, a deterrent to others.

“I have come to the conclusion that the only appropriate sentence, to be imposed upon you, for the murder of Zayden Veal-Whitting, is a sentence of life imprisonment.”

Justice Kaye said the there was a "real need to protect the community from you".

“It is important not to lose sight of the enormity of the crime which you committed, and the indescribable grief and pain caused to so many, as the direct consequence of that crime,” he said

"The sentence... is sufficient to ensure that you yourself are personally deterred from further wrongdoing, and to instil into you some understanding of, and insight into, the terrible nature of the crime which you have committed."

Justice Kaye says what Hicks did was "totally and utterly evil".

“I have taken into account the fact that the primary victim of your crime was a helpless, defenceless infant," he said.

“Any human being, with even a shred of decency and humanity, could only feel compassion, tenderness and protectiveness towards an infant in those circumstances. By contrast, you inflicted a brutal bashing, with a lethal instrument, on that baby. You crushed his skull, and savagely beat him with at least 30 blows.

“It is almost unthinkable that any human being could have carried out the sickening crime that you have committed. What you did was totally and utterly evil.

"Your offence involved an appalling degree of savage violence. You used a weapon, with which you had armed yourself earlier in the night, for the purposes of threatening, or engaging in, violence.

"The attack was cruel and callous and you have shown no remorse."

Mother Casey Veal said in her victim impact statement to the court, she had lost everything she'd ever known.

“Words cannot describe the pain I feel for both my sons,” she said.

"I lost being mummy. I lost all future plans I had dreamed for my boys. I lost his right to grow up, to celebrate even one birthday. Zayden was never able to even finish accomplishing being able to walk.

"I am serving a life sentence I will never be free of against my own will ... All I have is memories and even most of them are tainted by this crime and the trauma that has come from this. This crime has destroyed my life; I will never be the same again.” 

Justice Kaye said he has not detected any signs of sympathy or pity for the pain.

"I am satisfied, beyond reasonable doubt, that you feel no remorse for your wrongdoing and that you have not even suffered the slightest pang of conscience in respect of it," he said.

Hicks even tried to pass the blame for the murder onto Aiden Kirby, who conducted a burglary with him.

The seriousness of your offending was aggravated by your subsequent conduct, and, in particular, by your attempt to cast the blame, for your dreadful crime, onto another young innocent person, who, as I stated, you considered to be a soft target,” he said.

Justice Kaye said he still does not know why Hicks murdered Zayden but did take his background into consideration.

“You are the product of a most unstable and dysfunctional family life, that you have had no stability in terms of where you have resided, and that you have been a victim of abuse. Those circumstances - none of which were of your making – have played a role in shaping your personality,” he said.

Hicks parents separated when he was eight years old and he moved in with his mother. Hicks alleged his step-father mistreated and abused him so he ran away to his father's home at age 14.

The father was unable to care for both Hicks twins, so Hicks was placed in foster care and St Luke's Residential Care Unit before becoming a client of the Department of Human Services' Adolescent Protection Unit.

Justice Kaye said Hicks would face significant risk of harm while in prison due to the type of crime committed and would be treated as a "protected prisoner".

Justice Kaye said prison life would be "onerous" on Mr Hicks due to the nature and callous gravity of the offence.

Hicks suffered behavioural disorders at an early age but these were not believed to have driven him to commit the murder.

Justice Kaye said Hicks committed an act of senseless violence, showed no remorse or insight.

“Any person, who is capable of perpetrating the appalling crime which you committed, is, clearly, a grave danger to the community, and especially to the defenceless and vulnerable members of it,” he said.

“There is no evidence that you have come to grips, at all, with the horrific nature of the crime that you have committed.”

Justice Kaye said Hicks' life imprisonment sentence reflected the severity of the crime.

“The offender’s age is a relevant and important consideration, because, obviously, the younger the offender, the more severe a sentence of life imprisonment will be,” he said.

Justice Kaye said “all human life was sacrosanct” and the court needed to show its and the community’s abhorrence at the crime.

“The community places special value on the lives of infants, and on the lives of the young and the vulnerable. It is necessary, in a case such as this, which involves the vicious murder of an innocent baby, that the sentence imposed on you be sufficient to uphold that value,” he said.

Hicks has been sentenced on four counts; murder, aggravated burglary, theft of Matthew Tisell’s wallet and his sunglasses.

Hicks' prospects of rehabilitation were considered "not positive", even if the most appropriate treatment was given.



Casey Veal did not speak outside court, but Zayden's grandmother thanked everyone involved and asked for privacy.


Casey Veal leaves court, flanked my friends and family.



The Hicks family has declined to make a statement despite indicating before the sentencing began they would.


Hicks family leave court, shielding themselves from waiting media.



Hicks' family also crying and sobbing.


Tears are flowing from the family of Casey Veal.


Justice Kaye gives Hicks a minimum 32 years sentence before he is eligible for parole. 


We are waiting for details about a non-parole period.


Justice Kaye says sentences Hicks to life.

"The only appropriate sentence is life imprisonment."


Justice Kaye takes into account the primary victim of the murder is helpless, an "innocent person who was considered a soft target."

"You are the product of a most unstable and dysfunctional family life. They have a role in shaping your personality."


Justice Kaye tells Hicks: "There is areal need to protect the community from you" and the penalty must be sufficient to deter others from harming any other children.

"The sentence must be sufficient that you are personally deterred."

Justice Kaye says a life sentence is not the only sentence available.


Justice Kaye says the case demonstrates Hicks is a danger to the community.


Justice Kaye said Hicks' problems were compounded by a dysfunctional family life, sexual assault and drug use.

"Your personality is a product of the factors I just inferred," he said.

Justice Kaye says Hicks' prospects for rehabilitation are poor, at best.


Justice Kaye says Hicks was diagnosed with behavioural disorders at an early age but did not suffer and mental issues or conditions at the stage of the murder.

Justice Kaye said Hicks' mental state did not cause him to act the way he has.

Justice Kaye also says Hicks has low self esteem.


Justice Kaye talks about how Hicks had suicidal and self-harm tendencies and was sexually assaulted three times.

Justice Kaye says Hicks was assaulted as an 11 year old by a female friend of his mother, in his early teens by a group of men who preyed on him and another supplying them with drugs and alcohol.

Justice Kaye says Hicks was "violently raped" while in remand in the Melbourne Remand Centre prison by a fellow prisoner in 2011 and had moved primary schools six times.


Justice Kaye says the extent of death and suffering is an inevitable outcome of the crime committed.

Justice Kaye says it is important not to lose sight of the enormity of the crime.

Justice Kaye talks bout the separation of Hicks' parents and how his step father allegedly abused him.


Justice Kaye quotes Casey Veal's victim impact statement: " Words can't describe the pain I have for both my boys. I am serving a life sentence. This has destroyed my life. I will never be the same again."


Justice Kaye says there are a number of victims to this crime, including Zayden's young brother, who was an eyewitness.


Justice Kaye outlines Hick's offending past, including broken corrections orders in 2012 for thefts. 


Justice Kaye says Hicks murdered an innocent child so he could escape with the stolen items, or either committed an act of unmitigated evil.

Justice Kaye says he does not believe the drugs affected him to act.


Justice Kaye said baby Zayden was helpless ad defenceless and any human with a shred of decency would have shown compassion.

Justice Kaye says he has not detected any signs of sympathy or pity for the pain.

"Not even the slightest pang of conscience."

Justice Kaye says he still does not know why Hicks murdered Zayden.


Justice Kaye says what Hicks did was "totally and utterly evil".

Justice Kaye says Hicks committed the most serious crimes in our legal system.

Justice Kaye says it s the most serious category of murder that comes before the court.

"The attack was cruel and callous and you have shown no remorse," Justice Kaye says.

"The life of a baby is especially precious and he was in the threshold of childhood."


Justice Kaye says Hicks tried to implicate another person in the murder to save his own skin. That person had an alibi.


Hicks has his head down, eyes shut and hands clutched together.

Casey Veal is looking straight ahead at the judge.


Justice Kaye: "You bashed Zayden with the length of the bat and the end of it."

He says Hicks struck the fatal blow and specifically intended to kill him.

Justice Kaye says Hicks then went to bed apparently unaffected by the act.


Justice Kaye says the full account is harrowing: 25 blunt injuries to Zayden's face and eight to his scalp.

Justice Kaye says it shows the savage brutality of the violence and the injuries were so severe they caused the skull to fracture on both sides.


Justice Kaye says he is satisfied Hicks murdered Zayden between 2.30m and 3.30am.


Justice Kaye says Zayden's mother, Casey Veal, gave her son a bottle and settled him, and that was the last she saw him alive.

He says Hicks found $2000, took possession of Casey's wallet and found it empty.

He said Hicks opened the door of Zayden's house and disconnected the baby monitor.

Justice Kaye says what Hicks did next was clear, but why you did it was unclear. 

Justice Kaye says Hicks repeatedly and with considerable violence struck Zayden's head, face and body, killing him, then placed Zayden at the bottom of his cot.

Justice Stephen Kaye tells Hicks he committed a ferocious attack and inflicted a number of savage attacks.

Justice Kaye says the jury was satisfied he was the one who burgled the home at 199 Eaglehawk Rd and who murdered Zayden Veal.

"The jury was fully satisfied in their announcement of your verdict, he said.

10AM. Harley Hicks' brother will make a statement after the sentencing.

Zayden's mother, Casey Veal, has just walked into the packed court, holding hands with her family.


Casey Veal will receive her first taste of justice today as her baby’s murderer is sentenced.

Almost two years to the day, 10-and-a-half-month year old Zayden Veal-Whiting was repeatedly bashed to death with a home-made baton.

His killer, Bendigo man Harley Hicks was high on ice during the murder on June 15, 2012.

Mr Hicks entered the Eaglehawk Road home and conducted a burglary on the family.

Mr Hicks was also previously interviewed regarding a spate of residential thefts, burglaries in the Long Gully and Bendigo area.

Ms Veal woke to her child covered in blood, the blankets on his  bed smeared in red.

She called out to her then partner to take her other son, Xavier, aged five, to another room.

Ms Veal never gave up on Zayden, conducting CPR on him until the ambulance arrived, while aware he had died.

“I remember going outside and I dropped to my knees and started screaming. It wasn’t even a scream, you can’t even describe that kind of noise, it’s just pure pain, shock and trauma,” she said.

“It’s a wild sound, just mum and baby.”

Justice Stephen Kaye will hand down his sentence to Mr Hicks  for the heinous crime of murdering the baby today at 10am.

“He didn’t just take Zayden’s life away, he took half of mine and Xavier’s prospects,” Ms Veal said.


Georgina Cahill commented on 13-Jun-2014 10:04 PM5 out of 5 stars
Justice was served. Karma will follow.


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