WA murder accused: ‘He just spiralled and spiralled’
AWATEA Crofts watched as his son's mental health took a downward spiral over many years, but he never thought his family was in danger.
On Monday, his teenage son Teancum Vernon Peterson-Crofts was charged with the murder of his 48-year-old mother Michelle Petersen, and her two children Rua, 8 and Bella, 15, at their home in Ellenbrook, Western Australia.
Now, the distraught father has broken his silence over the tragic downfall of his son in the years leading up to the horrific scenes which unfolded on Sunday, when the Petersen family's lives were callously cut short.
In an interview with ABC, Mr Crofts said his son had a history of mental health problems but never received appropriate medical help.
The situation was already dire in January 2015, when the teenager was sent to hospital in Christchurch, New Zealand - where the Petersen family lived - because of his declining mental health.
"It was very difficult for him and the mental health staff," Mr Crofts told ABC.
"He just spiralled and spiralled and continued to spiral down. It was a perpetual, continual episode after episode."
Despite the tragedy of seeing their son's mental health deteriorate, the Petersen family moved to Ellenbrook, a quiet suburb about 30 kilometres northeast of Perth to embrace a new life.
When they landed in WA, they immediately liked by the community. They were active members of the local church and Ms Petersen had begun volunteering at a non-profit centre that helps people overcome alcohol and drug addiction.
Friends of the family told Fairfax 15-year-old rugby fan and churchgoer Bella had a doting relationship with her younger brother and one described Rua as "the light of [Michelle's] life".
"She just loved him. He was such a cute little boy," she said.
Teancum, a keen cross-country runner who uploaded slide shows of martial arts and videos of himself playing guitar on YouTube, was described as a nice, quiet guy by his mates.
"He sometimes had anger issues but he was almost always a nice guy," Teancum's former friend told WA Today.
"He was definitely weird, but nothing I would've thought would lead to this."
It all started to go wrong for the well-liked family in just six months after they landed in Australia.
In the days and weeks leading up to a triple murder, police were repeatedly called to the family's address.
A WA Police spokeswoman wouldn't tell news.com.au why officers kept going to the address, but Mr Crofts said it was because Petersen-Crofts's condition had "blown right out".
"His mother did everything she could and just in the last days, her last six months, she was still doing everything she could but his condition had blown right out," he told ABC.
"From what I've heard, from other family members, he was rejected for whatever reasons from mental health [services] and Michelle his mum often had the police around."
Just hours before the frenzied attack on Sunday, the struggling teenager was reportedly presented to St John of God Midland public hospital, in a "psychotic state".
Some local media outlets are reporting that he was turned away by the emergency department on Saturday evening. However, this is unconfirmed and it has also been reported that he had left of his own accord.
When contacted by news.com.au, a hospital spokeswoman declined to comment on the reports that he was turned away - citing privacy reasons. The matter is currently being investigated.
Petersen-Crofts was charged with three counts of murder and has been remanded to a maximum-security unit at a psychiatric facility, where he is being assessed.
One of Ms Petersen's friends, Toni Ata, set up a crowd-funding page for the funerals that has already exceeded the $20,000 target.
"Her surviving children can't afford a funeral, or a casket, let alone three," Ms Ata wrote.
"Right now I feel lost, I want to help and this is the only way I know how."
It's believed family from New Zealand are flying to Perth.
WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson revealed on Tuesday that officers had been called to the family home several times in the weeks and days before the killings. He said the actions taken by officers who attended were appropriate in the circumstances.
"I can confirm that police have attended at that particular address, not only on the Friday, but in the weeks leading up to that," Mr Dawson told reporters in Perth on Tuesday.
"But these are matters that will be ultimately put before a court and, indeed, the state coroner, so I'm not going to particularise what exactly took place there."
If you or someone you know needs help, contact: 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) Lifeline 13 11 14.