Accused lost her own baby at 12, court told


By Stephen Moynihan
August 26, 2004

The woman charged with kidnapping three-week-old baby Montana Barbaro was yesterday refused bail after a court heard she had lost her own baby after giving birth at the age of 12.

Montana's mother Anita Ciancio smiled in court and kissed relatives after magistrate Raffaele Barberio refused bail to Cheryl McEachran, 48. An earlier application for bail by her husband, Mark McEachran, 43, was struck out.

Mr Barberio described the case against the couple as overwhelming and said they could face a lengthy jail sentence if convicted.

The Melbourne Magistrates Court was told Mrs McEachran had been sexually abused as a child and had given birth when she was 12.

The baby was removed from her care by an unknown adult and she had no "follow-up" to the history of the child.

A University of Melbourne psychiatrist, Anne Buist, said the loss of the child had resulted in McEachran becoming severely depressed as she attempted to deal with the pain.

Associate Professor Buist said McEachran had taken a "supermum" approach to her children but was "intellectually unsophisticated" to establish the reasons of her depression.

McEachran told the professor she had undergone an unsuccessful procedure to reverse a hysterectomy and afterwards applied to foster a newborn child.

Professor Buist said Mark McEachran had watched his wife pine for a baby but "felt powerless to do anything".

She described the alleged kidnapping as impulsive and said Cheryl McEachran had expressed remorse to Montana's parents and to her own children.

The prosecutor, John McArdle, QC, said the allegation that the plot was impulsive was "curious" and that the act demonstrated "a high level of callousness".

Mr Barberio said Montana had been "exposed to the dangers of death or serious injury," after the couple allegedly dumped her in a derelict house.

"Ultimately she admits her involvement in this callous and despicable act," he said.

The McEachrans will reappear in November.