Outpouring of support for mum of murdered Lismore toddler

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The mother of a toddler killed by his abusive dad in an “evil and cowardly” murder-suicide has been met with a flood of support from the community.

Two-year-old Rowan was found dead in a unit in East Lismore on Sunday night alongside his dad James Harrison, after he failed to return to the boy to his mother, Dr Sophie Roome, following an access visit.

“Rowan was a delightful little boy, full of joy and love for his family and friends. He loved the beach, music and swimming,” reads a GoFundMe campaign to support Dr Roome through the tragedy, which had raised nearly $30,000 at the time of writing.

“Rowan’s family are devastated. No child should be killed by those who are meant to love and protect them. This is a fund set up for Sophie to use in any way she sees fit. It may be for a memorial, donation to a charity, personal use or to assist in trying to affect change to the horror that is domestic violence.”

Police believe Harrison, 38, who worked as a business analyst with NSW Health, had planned the horrific crime and had rigged up a deadly gas poisoning system in his rental property.

The couple had moved to Lismore with their son last year but split shortly after.

Dr Roome had taken out an apprehended violence order out against her former partner in August, and in March the AVO was extended banning Harrison from assaulting, stalking or intimidating Dr Roome.

The intensive care specialist shared custody of Rowan with her ex, and took the toddler to Harrison’s home on Sunday while she worked a shift at Lismore Base Hospital.

When Harrison failed to drop Rowan back at 4.30pm on Sunday, Dr Roome called the police.

Police did a welfare check at around 5.30pm before leaving and returning again to Harrison’s home at around 9.45pm.

On the second visit they forced entry and found Harrison and Rowan dead.

The family issued a heartbreaking statement on Wednesday, saying the two-year-old’s life “was ended by an evil and cowardly act of violence, perpetrated by a person he should have been able to trust the most”.

“There are no possible excuses for this hurt, and no end to the pain it has caused,” the family said.

“We are devastated. We will love and miss Rowan forever.”

The family also described little Rowan as a “beautiful, joyful and adored little boy”.

“He had so many amazing qualities, and his short life was filled with rich and happy experiences,” they said.

“He loved music, the beach, swimming, his friends and his family. He touched the hearts of everyone lucky enough to be in his world.”

The powerful statement came after Harrison was described as a “wonderful colleague and beloved friend” in a “tone-deaf” staff email.

A NSW Health manager sent out an email on Wednesday to a number of Clinical Excellence Commission (CEC) staff praising Harrison after his death.

“It is with indescribable sadness that I find myself letting you know that James Harrison and his son Rowan died on Sunday,” CEC Director of Information Management Andre Jenkins said in the email leaked to The Daily Telegraph.

The email, which listed “support services” available for staff, also praised Harrison as “generous with his time”.

“Many of you also shared and memories of Rowan popping up in meetings with his proud dad,” Mr Jenkins wrote.

Staff who spoke to The Daily Telegraph slammed the “tone deaf” email, which came three days after the deaths and did not acknowledge police were treating it as a murder-suicide.

NSW Health Minister Ryan Park denounced the email, saying it was “completely unacceptable and has caused significant distress to staff”.

“I want to make clear that it does not reflect the views of NSW Health, and that it was not in any way endorsed or authorised by Health,” he said.

“This is an extremely difficult time for local health staff, and I want to reiterate that support is being made available to them.”

A spokeswoman for NSW Health also called the email “inappropriate” and said the body does not endorse and did not approve the message.

“The tragic events that unfolded in Lismore last weekend are having a profound impact on the community, including many of our staff members,” she said.

“Our focus is on making sure support is available for staff members who need it during this difficult time and in the days and weeks to come.”

Dr Roome’s family have travelled from Tasmania, where she is from, to comfort her.

“It’s devastating, we are all devastated,” a family member told The Daily Telegraph.

News of the tragic murder suicide broke on Monday with police revealing that there was no weapon involved in the pair’s death.

“The father has created a system where both he and the child have passed away as a result of the system he set up,” Deputy Police Commissioner Peter Thurtell said.

“A more tragic event you wouldn’t come across. Any of these issues are difficult for the police, but they are well trained.”

— with NCA NewsWire

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