INQUEST: It was two years after Leonie Hutchinson was last scene until authorities discovered she was missing.IT was about the time Leonie Hutchinson was turning two when her mother’s landlord last remembered seeing the fit and healthy toddler around her Scone home.
But it would be up to 2 years before authorities had any idea the little girl with the blonde hair and blue eyes was missing.
A coronial inquest has heard that Leonie’s mother, Kate Hutchinson, who also goes by the name of ‘‘Rainbow’’, has given ‘‘similar but differing’’ versions of Leonie’s whereabouts to friends, family and investigators in the years since the child’s disappearance a decade ago.
Ms Hutchinson, diagnosed with schizophrenia, has said Leonie was staying with friends on a farm, with people on the Central Coast, on properties outside Byron Bay and Bellingen and in foster homes, Deputy State Coroner Hugh Dillon heard yesterday.
But nothing has led investigators to finding Leonie, pictured, who would be aged 12 if she was still alive.
On the inquest’s opening day, a picture was painted of Ms Hutchinson’s alternative lifestyle, of ‘‘not someone who was deeply embedded in the community’’, of ‘‘satanic’’ matters and involvement in a witches’ coven in the 1990s.
‘‘… It is a sad day when a two-year-old goes missing and cannot be found for years on end,’’ Counsel assisting the coroner, Warwick Hunt, told Muswellbrook Coroners Court.
The inquest heard the then-Department of Community Services had ‘‘fleeting involvement’’ with Ms Hutchinson and Leonie, her fourth child, but ‘‘any inquiries or assessments suggested that Leonie was secure in Ms Hutchinson’s care’’.
In mid-August 2001, Ms Hutchinson spoke to her landlord about adopting Leonie out to one of the landlord’s relatives before deciding against it.
This was the last time the landlord, and anyone else other than Ms Hutchinson, reported seeing Leonie alive, the inquest heard.
Ms Hutchinson had later told her worried landlord Leonie was with friends.
Ms Hutchinson left the unit on December 11, 2001 – 10 years ago last Sunday – and moved to a property 20kilometres out of town. She had another child in 2003 and it was through concerns for that baby’s welfare that it was found Leonie might be missing.
Detective Sergeant Dave Frith said a nationwide search of school and medical records had failed to find any trace of Leonie.
A search of the property where Ms Hutchinson was living in February 2004 found Leonie’s ‘‘blue book’’, the toddler’s health record showing immunisations and other information needed for school.
Police also found Leonie’s birth certificate and in some ‘‘poetry and writings’’ belonging to Ms Hutchinson, a note which read: ‘‘Have good memories, my angel Leonie. I love you. April 2001.’’
The inquest is due to continue this week, but Ms Hutchinson will not give evidence until the new year.