Roast and a baby - couple's odd shopping trip

By Stephen Moynihan and AAP
August 25, 2004


Ordeal . . . Montana's parents leave court yesterday. Photo: John Woudstra

A married couple discussed stealing baby Montana Barbaro while shopping for a Sunday roast, a court heard yesterday.

"You wanted a kid, there's your opportunity," Mark McEachran allegedly told his wife, Cheryl, after seeing Montana and her mother, Anita Ciancio, at a Melbourne shopping centre on August 7.

Mark McEachran attacked Ms Ciancio, punching her and spraying her eyes with perfume while his wife lifted the baby from a car seat, Melbourne Magistrates Court was told.

The McEachrans sat behind security glass as they applied for bail, 15 days after three-week-old Montana was found alone in a derelict house. Detective Senior Constable Brett Regan told the court that the couple would have kept the child if it wasn't for all the media attention surrounding the kidnapping.

It was claimed Cheryl McEachran had renamed the baby Kia. The pair allegedly dumped Montana in a derelict house police described as a "cesspool". She was reunited with her mother after 40 hours when a jogger heard Montana's cries from inside. The same day, the couple gave themselves up to police.

Montana's father, Joe Barbaro, and Ms Ciancio were in court as Mark Andrew McEachran, 43, and Cheryl McEachran, 48, applied for bail. The pair face 25 charges, including kidnapping, child stealing, false imprisonment, assault and firearms offences.

The court was told Cheryl McEachran had written a letter of apology to Montana's parents.

"I have torn my own family apart and I don't know why I did this thing," the letter said.

As the letter was read to the court, Mr Barbaro covered his ears and Ms Ciancio held her husband's hand. Senior Constable Regan said Montana's parents did not want to be given a copy of the letter.

The court heard the McEachrans had applied to buy a gun for hunting two weeks before the baby had been taken. They had two guns on lay-by in Ballarat.

The court was told Mark McEachran had admitted the plot to steal the baby was premeditated, evidence which conflicts with his wife's statement to police.

Cheryl McEachran said they had been approached by two men at gunpoint at the shopping centre and ordered to steal Montana. She later confessed to police that this was a lie and her motivation to steal the baby was because she was lonely and having trouble conceiving a child.

She told police her need for a child was compounded by the fact she had a hysterectomy and was jealous that her daughter was ready to give birth to a child of her own.

Magistrate Raffaele Barberio is expected to decide on the bail applications today.