How a monster was able to kill little Tanilla Warrick-Deaves

WITH the monster who murdered his two-year-old daughter and the mother who betrayed her behind bars, Adrian Warrick is preparing for his next battle.

The Ballina father and his partner Brooke Bowen have always maintained there are others who are yet to be held accountable of allowing toddler Tanilla to spend most of her short life in her own hellish prison.

As Warren Ross was jailed for 40 years, the couple called for a Royal Commission into the NSW Department of Community Services.

Speaking exclusively with the Northern Star, Adrian and Brooke remember the little girl they knew and reveal how their fight to avenge her death is only just beginning.

Murdered Tanilla a happy little girl who loved horses

STRANGERS know Tanilla as the poor toddler who was murdered by her step-father, but her real dad knows she was so much more.

When their thoughts turn to Tanilla's final miserable months, Adrian and Brooke find comfort in remembering the ever-smiling animal lover who stayed with them on what would be her final Christmas.

After being allowed to spend her second birthday in Ballina, Tanilla returned in Christmas, 2010.

Memories of splashing around the beach and taking her to farms to see animals are held dear.

"She absolutely loved horses," Ms Bowen said

Tanilla Warrick-Deaves.
Tanilla Warrick-Deaves.

What makes the horrendous crimes committed against Tanilla all the more difficult for Ms Bowen to understand - is that she was not a "problem child".

She said Tanilla "never wanted for anything", loved helping out and sitting in the front of the trolley on shopping trips.

While the warm moments were sadly well outnumbered by the awful, Ms Bowen still finds it therapeutic to talk about the good times.

"There is no making it better - the pain will never go away," Ms Bowen said.

"But for that time she was happy and she knew she was loved."

How the system failed Tanilla

HIGHLY publicised criminal trials ensured Tanilla Warrick-Deaves' stepfather, Warren Ross, and her mother Donna Deaves were publicly shamed.

But as the couple made headlines across the country another case was slowly building behind closed doors.

Following Tanilla's death in her Central Coast home three years ago - the toddler was thrown against a shower wall and left unconscious in a pram for two days after suffering months of sustained torture - the NSW Department of Community Services conducted an internal review.

While much of the detail was never made public, it became known that more than 100 reports had been made against the family home Deaves had allowed Ross in to and at least 30 of those reports specifically concerned concerns for Tanilla's welfare.

The damning information prompted NSW Community Services Minister Pru Goward to admit that there had obviously been a "misjudgement" at the Wyong DOCS office.

The court would later hear Ross made her run laps around the home and whipped her with a power cord if she wet herself - and Tanilla had unexplained bruises on her body

But for Tanilla's father Adrian Warrick and his partner Brooke Bowen that's not enough.

The couple carries the burden of wondering every day, "what if".

When Tanilla stayed with them at Ballina for the Christmas holidays in 2010 they knew something was wrong.

The court would later hear Ross made her run laps around the home and whipped her with a power cord if she wet herself - and Tanilla had unexplained bruises on her body.

Adrian Warrick
Adrian Warrick

A report was made to DOCS but at the end of the holiday, the couple who were struggling to make ends meet and had only recently lost their home, were made to allow her back to be with her mother.

Eight months later, they were watching a tiny pink coffin being lowered into the ground.

Ms Bowen says she and Mr Warrick live with deep regret, but there are caseworkers who need to share their guilt.

She is also the first to admit her partner is no saint.

Before his children were born he dabbled in drugs and heavy drinking and served time for an assault offence.

However, for Ms Bowen, the failure to remove the child from a volatile environment is unforgivable.

As she began sharing Tanilla's story through the media and online, Ms Bowen learned she was not alone.

For three years, a steady stream of past and present caseworkers have contacted Ms Bowen to tell her their stories.

As the case against Ross was finally closed yesterday, Ms Bowen prepared to take her campaign public.

With the support of more than 80 caseworkers and countless families, she will call for all reports made about Tanilla to be released and for a royal commission into the department.

"We have to live with the fact that we didn't fight harder for Tanilla - we were given the wrong information and we failed her," Ms Bowen said

"But this corrupt and broken system also failed her and until it is fixed the same thing will happen to other children.

"Tanilla will not become just another number.

"We are ready to make sure that never happens."

* The print version of this story mistakenly suggested that Adrian and Brooke had sent Tanilla back to her mother. To clarify, this was in fact at the ruling of DOCS.

CHILD KILLER: Warren Ross pictured boarding a police car at the King St court in Sydney just after being found guilty of murdering two-year-old Tanilla Warrick-Deaves, the daughter of his girlfriend Donna Deaves, in August 2011.
CHILD KILLER: Warren Ross pictured boarding a police car at the King St court in Sydney just after being found guilty of murdering two-year-old Tanilla Warrick-Deaves, the daughter of his girlfriend Donna Deaves, in August 2011. AAP

40 years jail for murdering two-year-old Tanilla


RIOT police lined the path outside Sydney's Supreme Court on Friday as child killer Warren Ross was jailed for 40 years for the murder if his step-daughter Tanilla Warrick-Deaves.

Ross will serve a minimum of 30 years.

The story of a two-year-old girl who suffered through months of sustained to torture before being fatally thrown against a shower wall, exposed shameful cracks in the state's child protection system and captured community attention like few other cases in Sydney's recent criminal history.

The importance placed Ross' sentence was evident on Friday as dozens of strangers joined supporters from both sides, filling the court room and spilling out onto the streets.

Chief Justice Stephen Rothman said no person with "any modicum of humanity" could not be moved by the murder.

As the sentence was read out Ross' mother screamed: "I'll be dead by then".

In a final blow for Tanilla's family, Ross jeered her father Adrian Warrick- calling out "see you in jail" as he was led out of the court

Tanilla's mother Donna Deaves, who allowed her unconscious daughter to slowly die in her pram for up to two days, is already serving a 12-year sentence for manslaughter.

The court previously heard Tanilla was regularly whipped with a power cord as punishment for being slow to toilet train and forced to run laps around the family home until she collapsed from exhaustion.

Despite harrowing accounts from neighbours Ross maintained Tanilla's bruises were sustained in a trampoline accident and a fall from a chest of drawers. He claimed they had put Tanilla to bed and discovered her unconscious later in the night.

In a police interview played in court, Ross sobs and goes as far to claim the toddler's final words on the night of her death were "goodnight Daddy, I love you".

Jurors, many whom sobbed and were offered counselling, found Ross guilty late last year.

While nothing less than a life sentence for the monster who murdered his little girl was going to satisfy Adrian Warrick, he knew, from the beginning that Tanilla's killer and the mother who failed to protect her, would likely one day walk free from jail.

Speaking to APN Newsdesk, Mr Warrick and his partner Brooke said they found comfort in the fact that Ross and Deaves would be haunted every day Tanilla's memory.