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Little girl’s head was on fire: rescue cop

A police officer who rescued a toddler who was set alight by her father recalled yesterday the moment she found the girl standing in her cot with her “whole head on fire”.

After pouring the contents of a jerry can over his three-year-old daughter’s head and setting her alight, Edward Herbert allegedly told his neighbour he burnt her because she was “too beautiful”.

Mr Herbert, a father of three, admits he tried to kill his toddler and his seven-year-old daughter at their Doubleview unit in August 2015, but says he is not guilty of criminal charges because of reasonable insanity.

The children were rescued by off-duty police officer Stephanie Bochorsky, who came to their aid after hearing their mother’s screams for help.

Const. Bochorsky held back tears in the Supreme Court yesterday when she gave evidence at Mr Herbert’s judge-alone trial about the moment she burst into the children’s room.

Const. Bochorsky said she could feel something behind her as she tried to put out the fire with a blanket and she turned to see Mr Herbert naked and pouring an accelerant on his seven-year-old as she lay in bed.

The only light in the room was from the flames coming from the toddler’s head and Mr Herbert allegedly stared blankly at Const. Bochorsky when she yelled at him to move away.

“He was just staring at me and her,” she said. “So my main concern was to get the flames extinguished.”

Const. Bochorsky picked up the toddler and dragged the older child, who has autism and special needs, out of the room by her pyjama collar.

She took the burnt girl to her house, put her in the bath and poured water on her until ambulance officers arrived.

The burns, which covered 13 per cent of the child’s body, were described by expert Fiona Wood as “serious and life-threatening”.

Edward Herbert
Edward Herbert

Mr Herbert had been drinking and smoking cannabis before the attack and he had allegedly been heard talking about aliens and werewolves.

In a statement tendered to the court, Mr Herbert’s partner said he was consuming about $50 worth of cannabis and almost an entire carton of beer each day in the weeks before the incident.

She said he switched between laughing and being angry on the night of the attack, leaving her fearing for her life.

The woman said Mr Herbert chased her with a kitchen knife while threatening to kill her before warning he would blow up their house and making a beeline for their daughter.

Defence witness, psychiatrist Bryan Tanney, diagnosed Mr Herbert with affective disorder with psychotic, predominantly manic, features.

He said Mr Herbert was experiencing “scary” auditory hallucinations and thought characters on TV shows were talking to him before the attack.

The trial continues.

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