Darcey Freeman, 4, killed in the name of her father

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Arthur Phillip Freeman was sentenced to 32 years in gaol today for throwing his almost 5-year-old daughter, Darcey Freeman, off the West Gate Bridge in Melbourne in 2009. Contributing editor-at-large Tess Lawrence reports.

January 29, 2009 was supposed to be little Darcey Freeman's first day at school. Instead, tragically, it was to be the last day of her short life.

That life was extinguished not by the hand of a stranger, nor in an accident. With only two more sleeps until her fifth birthday, she died as a consequence of vicious instrument and jealous marital revenge. Murder.

When her own father, Arthur Phillip Freeman stopped his car on the West Gate Bridge that yawns over the river Yarra, and picked up his blonde-haired four year old daughter, mercilessly chucking her over the railings to plunge a 58 lonely metres to her death, he surely condemned the child to endure a most hellish nightmare and ordeal for her last terrifying seconds on earth.

A bitter legacy for her. A bitter legacy for us all to contemplate and we are well reminded that the only known natural predator of our species is ourselves.

[Do you or your family need help. Call Lifeline's 24 hour telephone crisis support hotline: 13-11-14]

Contemplate the awful truth for the two other children in Freeman's car that day-his sons; Darcey's big brother, (then) six year old Ben and two year old baby brother Jack.

In those bewildering last moments before she hit that deep and dark water, she would have known in her suffocating fear that she had been betrayed and discarded by her Daddy. He who should have been her defender; her champion. The one man who should have taken a hit for her.

Instead, he made his child take a hit for him in a relationship war he was unlikely to win, but whose legacy he was determined to sully.

If Freeman has the ability to mourn his daughter, his conduct and the impact his actions have caused to his former wife and Darcey's Mum, Peta Barnes, that trait has not exhibited itself in the Victoria Supreme Court where last month a Jury found him guilty of murder.

Today, in Victoria's Supreme Court, Justice Paul Coghlan sentenced Freeman to life imprisonment and a non-parole period of 32 years; seven times the short life of Darcey. The 37 year old Freeman made an outburst in Court before he was taken away.

[Listen to Justice Coghlan's sentence by clicking here.]

Freeman's cruel act not only shocked many of the drivers paralysed in peak hour traffic on the bridge that fateful day, he also caused much grief and despair amongst Victoria's wider community. Many have been anticipating and awaiting His Honour's sentence.

West Gate has long been a bridge over troubled waters in Victoria. We are still haunted by the 1970 collapse that killed 35 construction workers.

Talkback radio often features discussion about the case, as well as general matters relating to Family Court issues and relationships.

The metaphor of Darcey being 'thrown away' (my emphasis) by her father – as if an inanimate possession – has not escaped the notice of a public trying to come to terms with this tragedy and trying to make sense of the senseless.

His Honour's recorded sentence diplayed a great insight into the personal anguish and heartbreak of some witnesses and others associated with Darcey and her families — as well as the distress of empathetic strangers.

It is often said that such children killed and injured by adults belong to us all in terms of responsibility since we are bonded in humanity.

Guilt has been shared like stale bread amongst so many of us.

Hearing his recorded sentence will no doubt bring comfort to many, since it reveals the Court has heard and addressed a myriad of difficult and complex issues raised by the Prosecution and the Defence and considered by the Jury and His Honour.

Such public access and sharing of the process of the Court helps to demystify the mechanics of Justice.

Arthur Phillip Freeman will remember January 21 not only as the date he murdered his daughter two years ago. He becomes eligible for parole on the same date, January 21 in 32 years time.

There may be a fine line between Justice and Revenge. As fine a difference as between mad and bad.

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