Awful reason mum is shielding face
Akon Guode strides through the carpark at Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital with purpose.
She tries to shield her face from cameras. She is desperate to get to her six-year-old daughter, the only surviving child of her decision to drive the family SUV into a lake.
The refugee from Sudan two days earlier murdered her four-year-old twins, Hanger and Madit, and was later found guilty of infanticide in the death of her one-year-old son, Bol.
It's difficult to think of a more impossible situation. A mother, whose own history is haunted by unspeakable crimes carried out against her, has just carried out the most unspeakable crime of all. And now she has to face the little girl she tried to kill.
The photograph, captured on April 10, 2015, tells only part of the story. The rest continues to play out in the courts.
Today, Goude's case is back before the highest court in Australia where police are trying desperately to sway the full bench of the High Court in Canberra to extend the 39-year-old's sentence.
She was jailed in 2017 for 26 years and six months for intentionally plunging the Toyota 4WD into a Wyndham Vale lake, 30km southwest of Melbourne.
But that sentence was slashed by the Victorian Court of Appeal in August last year to 20 years with a minimum of 14.
At Goude's sentencing, Judge Lex Lasry said Guode's actions were a "tragic mystery".
"In my opinion, your actions were the product of extreme desperation rather than any form of vengeance of a kind that has arisen in other cases of people killing their children," Judge Lasry said.
At appeal, Chief Justice Anne Ferguson said Guode had "fatefully and irredeemably breached" her children's trust but also "her capacity to make calm and rational decisions was severely compromised by a mental condition which was not of her own making".
The court heard Guode had survived being raped in war-torn Sudan and her soldier husband had been killed in fighting. She was given refugee status and moved to Australia to start a new life.
She wailed in court as her personal circumstances were read out.
The Court of Appeal found Guode's moral culpability was "significantly reduced" by her mental state at the time of the murders and her initial sentence was "manifestly excessive".
In a summary of judgment, the Court of Appeal judges wrote that the Crown "accepted Ms Guode's pleas of guilty on the basis that, at the time she committed these offences, the balance of her mind was disturbed because of a disorder consequent on her giving birth to her youngest child".
"In all of the circumstances, and having particular regard to the fact that the balance of her mind was disturbed when she committed the offences, the Court of Appeal accepted that the sentence imposed by the sentencing judge was manifestly excessive," they wrote.
On the day of the murders, CCTV captured Guode performing a U-turn and driving back past the lake the family had just passed. She drove four laps before steering the vehicle directly into the water.
It was deemed no accident. In fact, Guode had gone to some lengths to get the car under water.
Victoria Police collision investigator and civil engineer Detective Senior Constable Robert Hay said it was his opinion "that the car could not and did not just drift off the roadway".
"During the drive-through it was demonstrated that there would be three turns of the steering wheel to get to the ballast area," Sen-Constable Hay said.
The only saving grace that day came in the form of a passer-by who saw the car plunge into the lake and ran to help.
He smashed the window and unbuckled the harness from Guode's oldest child. Guode stood by the vehicle and watched as it filled with water.
Guode denied ever being at the lake when questioned by police. She said she became "dizzy". Her mental state was already showing clear signs of fracture.