Accused murder mum’s ‘bizarre’ comment at Xmas party
MAREE Crabtree shrugged off condolences from a neighbour over the death of her daughter, saying, "I've always said my kids are retarded."
Friends and neighbours have shed more light on the life of the Gold Coast mother, charged yesterday with murdering her son and daughter five years apart and torturing another relative.
Police will allege Crabtree kept her children bedridden to claim disability payments before murdering her daughter Erin and son Jonathan for money.
Crabtree's lawyer said she would defend the charges.
Erin was 18 when she was found dead in her bed in 2012 while the family enjoyed a holiday on board a cruise ship. Maree told friends she had choked on her own vomit.
Five years later, her son Jonathan, aged 26, died from an apparent overdose at the family's palatial Riverstone Crossing home.
The deaths were initially thought to be suicides, but a large-scale investigation this week led to Crabtree being charged with her children's murders, the torture and grievous bodily harm of a female relative and a range of fraud offences.
She has also been charged with armed robbery, with police alleging she counselled or instructed her son to rob a chemist for prescription pain medication at knifepoint.
"She came to our street Christmas party," a neighbour told The Courier-Mail.
"She made some very bizarre comments and then we distanced ourselves from her.
"When we offered our condolences in 2012 after Erin died, she... responded with, 'I've always said my kids are retarded.' "
The neighbour said Crabtree's other children were within earshot when she made the comment.
The neighbour also recalled standing behind Crabtree at a chemist one day as she spoke to the pharmacist about prescription painkillers for her children.
"I was behind Maree at the local chemist one day, waiting, and overheard her (asking) the pharmacist about the medications she was buying," the neighbour said.
"This was after we all heard Jonathan held up a chemist with a knife."
The Courier-Mail can also reveal Crabtree was embroiled in a financial dispute in 2003 after the breakdown of a relationship in Sydney.
Court documents reveal she was living with her mother and three children in a home at Peakhurst and became involved with a man following her divorce.
At the time, Crabtree was living off a carer's pension and child support payments in a home she'd inherited from a relative.
Shortly before legal proceedings began, a fire destroyed Crabtree's home. She sold it soon after for $570,000 and used the money to buy another property.
Neighbour Terry Fitzgibbon said he rushed to the house during the fire as he feared Ms Crabtree's mother was inside.
"I went round the back to try and get in because I thought her mother was stuck in the back outside," he said.
"She wasn't there, and by this time the fire was starting to take control so we had to get out.
"The place ended up getting pulled down because it wasn't liveable."
He said he gave a report to police about what happened.
Another neighbour said he remembered the fire.
"She was redecorating her place when the fire started, that was some of the trouble some of the paint she had there accelerated the fire and made it very severe," he said.
"She just seemed to be, just a little bit strange, just her ideas," he said.