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Name: AUSTIN ALLAN HUGHES aka "Blain Lopez Smith"

Age: 38 yrs old (2012)

State: NSW - Kempsey/ South West Rocks

Sentence: Sentenced in 1994 to 21 yrs jail- reduced to 19 yrs on appeal-14 yrs non parole. Freed in December 2009 from Silverwater Jail.

Offence/Other: Austin Allan Hughes/ Child Killer..Convicted of bashing his girlfriends 6 yr old son (John Ashfield) to death. Hughes and the childs mother, Gunn-Britt Ashfield (AKA- Anjelic Karstrom) bashed John then placed a telephone book to the childs head and repeatedly hit him with a hammer.
John died from massive head injuries in hospital the next day.
December 2009- Hughes released-to spend 3 months at a corrective services halfway house in Kempsey, NSW.


Update - "AVO fight with pram" (21-9-2013) - Convicted child killer Blain Lopez Smith, formerly Austin Allan Hughes, was seen pushing a pram with a child on his way to an AVO hearing in Kempsey Local Court on Monday. Smith was sentenced to 21 years, reduced to 19 on appeal, with a minimum of 14 years, after pleading guilty to the murder of his girlfriend Gunn-Britt Ashfield's son John..the matter is back in court on November 12.. Read more.

News (7-1-2012)- Convicted child killer "Austin Allan Hughes", charged with breaching his parole, after he was allegedly found living under another name with a woman and her two children in Kempsey... internet was used by family to find his real identity .

News (7-1-2012)- Convicted Nowra child killer Austin Allan Hughes, charged with breaching his parole conditions, has been refused bail in Port Macquarie Local Court. He will be in custody at a remand centre in Kempsey until his video appearance before Magistrate Thomas Hodgson on Monday - Read more below.

Galleries: The John Ashfield tragedy
Austin Allan Hughes


Austin Allan Hughes



Murderer's breach and lies attract community service

Convicted child killer Blain Lopez Smith will perform community service for lying to police, probation officers and a Kempsey family who, unknowingly, let a murderer into their lives.
Smith, 38, of South West Rocks, pleaded guilty to three counts of failing to comply with reporting obligations at Port Macquarie Local Court on Monday.
Magistrate Thomas Hodgson sentenced Smith to 200 hours’ community service as a direct alternative to 12 months’ jail.
The court was told Smith could have been sentenced to up to five years in jail for his offences.
Smith changed his name from Austin Allan Hughes, after he spent 16 years behind bars for the murder of a six-year-old Nowra boy in 1993.
He was released on parole in December 2009. Smith, and his then girlfriend Gunn-Britt Ashfield, tortured and bashed the little boy to death with a phonebook and hammer as his siblings watched in horror.
Since then, Smith has been on the NSW Child Protection Register, and under an obligation to supply and report any changes to his address, vehicles, employment and travel.
until January, police said they were unaware Smith was living under his alias with a mother and her two children in West Kempsey.
Smith failed to comply with his reporting obligations, even though he maintained contact with police and probation officers.
A statement of police facts tendered to the court said on January 6, 2012, officers were notified that, contrary to his annual reporting form, Smith was staying at his girlfriend’s home in West Kempsey.
They also were told he had taken one of her children to Kempsey Airport on at least three occasions, unsupervised.
Shortly afterwards, Smith was arrested and taken to the Kempsey police station and taken into custody.
The day after his release on February 29, Smith supplied police with a new address and said he was working as an aircraft maintenance contractor at hangar five of Kempsey Airport.
But, when police asked him about his internet usage, he lied about using a Facebook account his sister had set-up for him under the name of “Blain Smiffy”.
Smith said he did not know the password and would probably not be using the page. But Detective Senior Constable Kelly Stewart found a photo posted on his Facebook page, dated September 24, 2011, which suggested otherwise. Smith’s defence attorney told the court his client was being “victimised” and “finding it difficult to re-assimilate his life” after spending nearly half of it in prison.
“He’s also scared your honour,” the solicitor said. “He has come up here to be somewhat anonymous and, unfortunately, someone has found out who he really is.”
Smith appeared before the court clean-shaven, in a black suit and white shirt with a dark-blue tie. He was supported by his girlfriend.
The case would never have come to light if a close family member did not discover his identity, the defence said.
Mr Hodgson said he considered the seriousness of the matter, but determined community service was a suitable consequence.

www.portnews.com.au (29-10-2012)
Melissa Pretorius

http://www.portnews.com.au/story/428590/murderers-breach-and-lies-attract-community-service/


Why child killer Austin Allan Hughes is on the loose

A convicted child killer who breached reporting conditions by allegedly having unsupervised contact with kids has been granted bail - outraging the family of his young murder victim.
Jailed for 16 years for the brutal hammer slaying of John Ashfield in 1993, Austin Allan Hughes appeared in the Port Macquarie Local Court after police alleged he had driven one of his girlfriend's children to an airport unsupervised on at least three occasions.
But Hughes, paroled in 2009, was granted bail on the condition that he live with one of his work colleagues from an aircraft maintenance company which operates out of Kempsey Airport.
The court's decision has deeply angered the family of the boy, 6, who he repeatedly bashed with a hammer in front of his horrified siblings in 1993.
"It's very annoying," John's aunt, Annette Ashfield, said. "We've been let down by the justice system. He's killed a child, been left alone with others and he still gets bail.
"He's never once said sorry for what he did."
Photographs of the boy are well know to the public but can no longer be shown due to changes to the Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act in 2009. In January, Hughes was arrested by police after he allegedly broke his reporting conditions by secretly living with a girlfriend and her two children on the NSW mid-north coast.
After he was remanded in custody, Hughes, who allegedly changed his name to Blain Lopez Smith, won a bail application on February 28 in the NSW Supreme Court.
Justice Robert Allan Hulme said he was left with no other choice to grant bail because the prosecution had pre- sented limited information on Hughes' alleged crime.
"When the brief of evidence is served ... it may be the situation will change but I can only deal with the matter on the basis of the material the prosecution has sought to place before me to date," Justice Hulme said.
A police fact sheet tendered to the Supreme Court said Hughes had been alone with one of the woman's children on numerous occasions.
"It is asserted he had taken one of the young children, on at least three occasions, to Kempsey Airport with no other responsible adult being present," Justice Robert Allan Hulme told the court.
Hughes is also accused of using a car not registered with police, as required by his reporting conditions.
Hughes and his former girlfriend Gunn-Britt Ashfield were convicted of the gruesome murder of John Ashfield at a home they shared in Nowra in 1993.
Ashfield, who changed her name to Anjelic Karstron while behind bars, was released from jail last year after serving an 18-year prison term.
Hughes' legal representative told the court that the police did not have any proof Hughes had been living at the woman's address or had driven the car to the extent that it was illegal.
Hughes was ordered to appear in Port Macquarie Local Court on March 22.

www.news.com.au (11-3-2012)
http://www.news.com.au/national/why-child-killer-austin-allan-hughes-is-on-the-loose/story-e6frfkvr-1226296183602


Google hunt found brutal truth behind killer's name change

Call it a woman's intuition but she had more than a nagging suspicion that her sister's new boyfriend was hiding a dark secret.
There was the hat he always wore, usually a peaked cap which he pulled down to hide his face, and the sunglasses more often than not hiding his eyes.
He was spending more and more time with the woman's sister and her two children at their north coast home but whenever anyone tried to take a "family" photograph, he always had a reason for not being in the picture.
As her fears grew, the woman did an internet search. Among the words she Googled were "killer" and her home town.
Up came an image that chilled her blood: a photograph of a convicted child killer with details of his dark past.
One of the country's most notorious killers, he had been released from jail two years earlier after serving almost 2 decades for murder after bashing his former girlfriend's son to death in front of the little boy's brothers and sister.
The woman knew him as by a different name as her sister's boyfriend. He had changed his name and shaved off his beard since he got out of jail but there was no mistaking him.
Also unknown to the family, he was on the Child Protection Register.
Last week, as the ease with which prisoners can change their name and start life with a clean slate was revealed, the family's solicitor said they still felt betrayed by the system.
"The family was amazed that someone could change their name and just blend back into the community like he had," Todd Scott, of Firth, McAlpine and Scott Lawyers, said.
A Daily Telegraph investigation can reveal that the man changed his name by deed poll from behind bars before October 2008, when the law was changed.
Since then, no one on the Child Protection Register can change their name without the permission of Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione.
Police will not say how many have applied since then, but only five have been given permission and then only to confirm the name they were already known by.
"These matters related to applications where the name change was to the name the person has been known by all of their life and under the name for which they were arrested and charged.
However, their birth certificate records the name of their biological father," a spokesperson said.
Where the man got the inspiration for his new name is unknown.
While the authorities knew the man had a new identity, not only was the public not told but neither were the family of his victim.
They knew their mother, who was convicted with the man for murdering the boy, had changed her name before her release after serving 18 years. Like the man, she had pleaded guilty to his murder.
The boy's sister said yesterday that she did not know about the man’s name change.
Released from jail despite opposition from the Crown, the man lived nearby in a halfway house.
The mother of the two sisters gave him a job, believing him to be a "very likable, genuine" man.
The mother, a well-respected businesswoman, has since said that he ingratiated himself into the family and she eventually introduced him to her daughter.
He became a cleaner at a local airport and moved on to become a trainee engineer.
To the probation and parole officers monitoring him, he was a model parolee, with his visits reduced from once a fortnight to once a month.
The man's victim had died while being "disciplined" by him, who the Supreme Court had been told believed that "severe corporal punishment was the first rather than the last resort".
After the sister returned from holidays with the man in the first week of January, her family tipped off police.
He was arrested and charged with breaching the Child Protection (Offenders Registration) Act by allegedly being in the company of a woman and her children for more than 14 consecutive days and failing to record his change of address with the police.
He now faces a maximum five-year jail sentence for breaching the act.

www.news.com.au (6-2-2012)
http://www.news.com.au/national/google-hunt-found-brutal-truth-behind-killers-name-change/story-e6frfkp9-1226263263916

How child killer Austin Allan Hughes fooled family

The Kempsey family who unknowingly accepted convicted child killer Austin Allan Hughes into their lives feel ‘‘betrayed and horrified’’ that the murderer was able to blend into their community using a new identity.
Hughes, who now goes by Blain Lopez Smith, was arrested and charged with breaching the Child Protection Act on Friday after it was alleged he was living with a woman and her two children at Kempsey.
The revelation comes after he was released from prison in December 2009, having served 16 years for the brutal murder of six-year-old Nowra boy John Ashfield in tandem with the boy’s mother, Gunn-Britt Ashfield, in 1993.
Yesterday, the Kempsey woman’s mother spoke out about her daughter’s relationship with Hughes, and the family’s horror when they discovered that the sometimes-controlling boyfriend was in fact a violent killer.
Speaking through family lawyer Roger Firth, the mother said she was extremely distressed to learn that her young granddaughter and grandson had been exposed to Hughes unwittingly.
‘‘She felt betrayed and she was horrified that he could be in the community and that the children could be exposed to him,’’ Mr Firth, director of Firth, McAlpine and Scott Lawyers, said.
‘‘The thought that they’ve had the grandchildren in that environment [and that] on a number of occasions he has been with the children ... she’s certainly distressed by it.
‘‘She’s amazed that someone could change their name and just blend back into the community like he has.’’
The woman’s mother, who has lived in Kempsey for 20 years and runs her own business, thought Hughes was a very likeable, genuine man when she hired him for a job and eventually introduced him to her daughter.
‘‘He’s quite a personable person, quite a likeable guy,’’ Mr Firth explained.
‘‘She said she considered him a friend and that he ingratiated himself in the family then met her daughter and started going out with her.’’ However, the mother’s suspicions were raised when he avoided giving her information for a criminal background check.
Her concerns grew when the family noticed Hughes was always wearing a hat and sunglasses.
Conversations between Hughes and other family members also raised alarm bells, particularly after he told them on a number of occasions the woman’s young boy was ‘‘too spoilt and needed disciplining’’.
It came to a head when they did an internet search of the terms ‘‘Kempsey’’ and ‘‘killer’’ and came up with a photograph of Hughes and information about his murder conviction.
At the time Hughes was holidaying with the woman. It was only when they returned that her family dared show her their findings.
Hughes’ victim, John Ashfield, died after a prolonged attack during which he was kicked, punched and shoved into a cold shower before having his head placed on a phone book and repeatedly hit with a hammer.
Two of his brothers were forced to jump from a bunk on top of him.
Hughes has been living in the Kempsey area since his release from prison in December 2009.
At the time, the Member for Oxley, Andrew Stoner, now Deputy Premier, voiced his concerns about releasing the convicted killer into the community.
“If the State Government is stupid enough to let this person out early, they can send him elsewhere, he’s the last person Kempsey wants,” Mr Stoner had said. “Using our town as a dumping ground for a convicted child murderer won’t be accepted by the local community - he didn’t come from here and we don’t want him here.”
Yesterday, the mother warned that it could happen to anyone, and that people should be alert.
She also expressed sympathy for John Ashfield’s family.
‘‘She said she couldn’t imagine how they must be feeling,’’ Mr Firth said.


illawarra mercury (10-1-2012)
Bree Fuller
http://www.illawarramercury.com.au/news/local/news/general/how-child-killer-austin-allan-hughes-fooled-family/2414485.aspx?storypage=0

MAKO/Files Online.. Listing Australian Convicted Paedophiles/ Sex Offenders/ Child Killers.. FREE Public Service..



Siblings happy Nowra child killer is back behind bars

The siblings of Nowra boy John Ashfield, who was tortured and bashed to death with a hammer, are hoping their brother’s killer will be sent back to jail.
Austin Allan Hughes, also known as Blain Lopez Smith, will appear in court today charged with breaching the Child Protection Act after it was alleged he was living with a woman and her two daughters at Kempsey.
Hughes was released from prison in December 2009 after serving 16 years for the killing of six-year-old John in tandem with the boy’s mother, Gunn-Britt Ashfield, in August 1993.
The case has reopened wounds for John’s siblings, Melissa and Gary, who, along with two older brothers, witnessed the killing.
Yesterday, Gary said he was relieved Hughes was apprehended before he hurt anyone else.‘‘I’m glad he didn’t have a chance to kill these children and I’m happy that he’s back behind bars where he belongs,’’ he said.
Hughes was arrested on Friday and taken to Kempsey Police Station where he was charged with two counts of failing to comply with reporting obligations.
In Port Macquarie Local Court on Saturday, it was alleged Hughes breached parole conditions by being in the company of a woman and her children for more than 14 consecutive days and that he had failed to record his change of address.
Hughes, 38, is listed with the Child Protection Registry, which requires him to notify police of all details and movements.
During the brief hearing, bail was refused after police opposed his application. He will reappear in Port Macquarie Court today via video link.
Hughes is believed to have been arrested following a tip-off from his new partner’s sister after she conducted an internet search and discovered his past.
A relative of Hughes told Fairfax he had not been living with the woman and her children.
‘‘He may have stayed overnight occasionally in that house with his girlfriend but the children were not there,’’ he said.
‘‘He was building up to explaining his situation to her.’’
John Ashfield died following a prolonged attack during which he was kicked, punched and shoved into a cold shower before having his head placed on a phone book and repeatedly hit with a hammer.
Two of his brothers were forced to jump from a bunk on top of him.
John, who suffered more than 100 bruises to his body, at one point pleaded: ‘‘I’m really sorry, don’t do this to me, I’m sore, I’m sorry.’’
Ashfield, who has since changed her name to Angelic Karstrom, her maiden name, was released in August last year after 18 years in prison.
Melissa, 21, and Gary, 22, said they were relieved Hughes was back behind bars.
‘‘He knew he wasn’t supposed to be around children but he chose to do it because he’s a liar and a manipulator,’’ Ms Ashfield said.
‘‘For what he did to my six-year-old brother, coming into my family and murdering my brother and then getting out of jail and shacking up with two kids, it’s disgusting.’’
She said when she heard of Hughes’ arrest, she felt ‘‘bittersweet’’.
‘‘It’s a big relief for my family but at the same time my heart goes out to that other family. I feel sorry for the girlfriend who pretty much had a child murderer so close to her children.’’
Ms Ashfield, who lives in the Hunter region, said she still remembered parts of her brother’s attack but had been able to move forward with the love of her partner and 18-month-old son.
Regardless, the latest development caused a setback. ‘‘Last night I broke down a bit. What’s the point of going to counselling? What’s the point of trying to get over the past when it always comes back and slaps you in the face?’’ she said.
‘‘You try and move on and, boom, something happens to bring it all back up.’’
Gary, who lives in the Illawarra, said he was still undergoing counselling.
‘‘It’s with me most of the time but since I’ve got friends from the Lighthouse Church and neighbours who care about me, I’m actually feeling safe,’’ he said.
Ms Ashfield said she now intended to relocate to protect her family.
‘‘As I’ve said to Gunn-Britt and Austin, the day they drop dead is the day I’ll be happy,’’ she said.

www.illawarramercury.com.au (8-1-2012)
Michelle Hoctor

http://www.illawarramercury.com.au/story/638581/siblings-happy-nowra-child-killer-is-back-behind-bars/

Nowra child killer Austin Allan Hughes back behind bars

Convicted Nowra child killer Austin Allan Hughes, charged with breaching his parole conditions, has been refused bail in Port Macquarie Local Court.
Hughes, who was arrested in Kempsey on Friday, will appear in court again on Monday, by video link.
The 38-year-old was released from Silverwater Correctional Centre in December 2009 after serving 16 years of his 19-year sentence for bashing to death six-year-old John Ashfield during a prolonged attack in his Nowra home.
It is alleged that Hughes breached parole conditions by being in the company of a woman and her children for more than 14 consecutive days and that he had failed to record his change of address.
During a brief court hearing on Saturday morning, bail was refused after police opposed Hughes’ application.
He will be in custody at a remand centre in Kempsey until his video appearance before Magistrate Thomas Hodgson on Monday.
John Ashfield was bashed to death by Hughes and the child’s mother Gunn-Britt Ashfield in an horrific attack on August 4, 1993.
John was kicked, punched and had his head placed against a phone book which was hit with a hammer.
Pleading for mercy, he was also beaten with a curtain rod, shoved into a cold shower and then had his head smashed on the tile wall repeatedly, all of which was witnessed by his four siblings.
Three hours after the assault began, he was taken to Shoalhaven Hospital clinically dead.
He was revived and sent to Westmead Children’s Hospital, where he later died from brain injuries.
Ashfield, who has since changed her name to Angelic Karstrom, was released from jail in August last year after serving 18 years behind bars.
Hughes was freed under strict bail conditions, including that he not contact John’s family or visit the Illawarra. He would have to serve at least 12 months’ jail if he breached those conditions.


illawarra mercury (7-1-2012)
Michelle Hoctor
http://www.illawarramercury.com.au/news/local/news/general/nowra-child-killer-austin-allan-hughes-back-behind-bars/2412404.aspx

Child killer found living with woman and children under false name

A convicted child killer was yesterday charged with breaching his parole, after he was allegedly found living under another name with a woman and her two children.
Austin Allan Hughes served 16 years of a 19-year sentence after he and then girlfriend Gunn-Britt Ashfield were convicted of bashing her six-year-old son John to death with a hammer in Nowra in 1993, The Daily Telegraph reported.
Hughes' release from jail in December 2009 was under strict conditions. He was arrested about 1pm yesterday and charged with two counts of failing to comply with reporting obligations and was to appear in Port Macquarie Local Court today.
Channel 9 reported the tip-off to police came from the sister of the woman Mr Hughes was seeing, after she became suspicious when the 38-year-old refused to have his photo taken and used the internet to discover his real identity.
Under the conditions of his parole Mr Hughes was to remain under supervision until his sentence expires in August 2012.
He was also banned from contacting John's family or entering the Illawarra, and he was added to the NSW Child Sex Offenders Register.
Ms Ashfield was released from jail in August last year.


Daily Telegraph (7-1-2012)
http://www.news.com.au/national/child-killer-found-living-with-woman-and-children-under-false-name/story-e6frfkvr-1226238609497

Gunn-Britt Ashfield expected to get parole in a month
John Eric Ashfield (6) who was murdered by his mother, Gunn-Britt Ashfield and her boyfriend, Austin 'Aussie' Hughes in 1993.

A woman who brutally killed her six-year-old son is expected to be paroled next month after serving 18-years of her 19-year sentence.
Gunn-Britt Ashfield and her boyfriend, Austin Hughes, repeatedly hit the young boy with a hammer after he came home from school.
John Ashfield was just six-years old and in first grade at Nowra East public school when he died from massive head in juries inflicted by the pair in 1993.
In evidence presented to court NSW Supreme court Ashfield, then 25, became enraged because she thought her son had touched his three-year-old sister inappropriately.
The pair decided to teach John a lesson and Austin said the boy would not be allowed to "get away with it".
He died in Shoalhaven Hospital with more than 100 bruises to the head and body.
The Parole Board said by releasing her early Ashfield will subjected to strict parole conditions.
If Ashfield had served her full 19 years there would have been no option to impose parole conditions and authorities would not be able to know whereabouts or her behaviour.
Ashfield, now known as Angelic Karstrom ,will be electronically monitored, prohibited from residing or visiting the Wollongong and Nowra Local Government Areas.
She will also be constantly drug and alcohol tested, must live in a residence approved by the Probation and Parole Service and be subject to curfews and on-going assessment.
She is not allowed to contact her co-offender, Austin Allan Hughes.
She has been refused parole for four consecutive years, despite being eligible since 2007.
The State's Serious Offenders Review Council and the Probation and Parole Service supported her release.
A report tendered by the Serious Offenders Review Council states:
"Her acknowledgement of her crime has been the most dramatic and important development in the past two years.
"It's important that the inmate be tested on conditional liberty."
State Parole Authority Director Robert Cosman said the intention to grant parole was based on recommendations that the inmate be monitored in the community.
"There was limited opportunity remaining for the release of this offender on conditional liberty," Mr Cosman said.
"It's in the public interest for the offender to be monitored under strict supervision rather than release her from custody without restrictions."
Austin Hughes was released in December 2009.
The SPA has stood the matter over until July 29 for public hearing to allow for the State and registered victims to make submissions

The Daily Telegraph (9-6-2011)
Mark Morri
http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/gun-britt-ashfield-expected-to-get-parole-in-a-month/story-e6freuy9-1226072481380

Melissa Ashfield tells NSW Parole Board hearing into release of Austin Hughes of 16 years reliving brother John's murder

A woman who saw her six-year-old brother beaten to death by his mother and her boyfriend in 1993 says she still has traumatic flashbacks about the killing.
Melissa Ashfield was just three years old when she witnessed the murder of her brother John at the family home in Nowra on the NSW south coast.
Her mother and her mother's boyfriend Austin Hughes were both jailed for 21 years, with a non-parole period of 14 years, for killing John by putting a telephone book next to his head and beating him repeatedly with a hammer.
On Tuesday, John's relatives attended a hearing for Hughes, who is seeking release on parole.
Before the NSW Parole Board hearing in Parramatta, Melissa Ashfield recounted the helplessness she felt when she saw Hughes beat her brother with a hammer.
"They started hitting him and punching him ... they got my brothers to go on the top bunk and one by one jump on him," she told reporters.
At the hearing, John's father's former fiance, Wendy Campbell, read a statement for Melissa Ashfield.
"They took him to the bathroom and smashed his head on the tiles," the statement said.
"It is very hard every time parole comes up we are forced to bring back the flashbacks.
"I will never be able to see my brother, I will never be able to get to know him.
"He (Hughes) wants to get out two years early, but I never got those two years with my brother."
The board has delayed making a decision on Hughes' parole until December 8.

AAP (10-11-2009)
http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/sydney-nsw/melissa-ashfield-tells-nsw-parole-board-hearing-into-release-of-austin-hughes-of-16-years-reliving-brother-johns-murder/story-e6freuzi-1225796139178

The killer story we could not publish until now

In August 1993, a little boy - John Ashfield, aged 6 - was beaten to death with a hammer to his head.
His mother, Gunn-Britt Ashfield, then 25, led the assault; her boyfriend, Austin Allan Hughes, then 20, was a keen participant.
According to evidence presented to court in December 1993, Ashfield became enraged when she heard that John, who was in Year 1 at East Nowra primary school on the NSW south coast, touched his three-year-old sister in an inappropriate way. Her boyfriend agreed the boy could not be allowed to "get away with it".
He didn't. Less than 24 hours later he died in Shoalhaven Hospital, his tiny body covered in more than 100 bruises from his parents's savage beating -- a beating that ended with Hughes putting the Nowra telephone book against John's head, and hitting him with a hammer.
They were each sentenced to 21 years in jail, reduced to 19 years on appeal, with a minimum of 14 years.
Next Thursday, 14 years since she beat John to death, his mother, who has changed her name in prison and now calls herself Anjelic Karstrom, will apply for parole. Hughes has also applied for parole. His case will also be heard next Thursday.
In 2004, the NSW Parliament passed laws that made it an offence for media outlets to publish the name of a dead child who had been the victim of a crime, no matter what the circumstances.
This law prevented The Weekend Australian from printing this story, ostensibly to protect the victim, John.
The newspaper's parent company, News Limited, backed by groups including the NSW Homicide Victims Support Group, and the Victims of Crime Assistance League, has lobbied against this law since it was enacted, believing that it protects only the killers from being identified.
On Thursday night, the NSW Parliament passed a bill amending the law, making publication permissible in some circumstances, such as if the next of kin agrees. The changes come into effect next Wednesday.
John's sister Melissa, 17, does not want her mother released. "I have not seen my mother since I was 11," she said. "The last time I saw her (in prison) I pulled her hair and slapped her. I have flashbacks to what happened. She tried to blame me. She tried to get us to help her bash John. She tried to say that John touched me. He never touched me."
Melissa says she remembers the day John was beaten, "clear as anything". When he swang in from school that day, August 5, Hughes confronted him in the kitchen. He told police he kicked John on the bottom with the side of his foot "the way you kick a soccer ball", slapped him around the head and sent him to his room.
But that was not the end of it: Ashfield and Hughes decided John needed to be taught a lesson. They went into his bedroom and started beating him.
A frenzy soon developed: they punched him with their fists, and beat him with the white aluminium rod that held up a curtain.
John was sobbing: "I'm really sorry, don't do this to me, I'm sore, I'm sorry."
Hughes mocked him, saying: "You scream like a little girl."
When John continued to sob, Hughes took a girl's dress out of the cupboard and shoved it over the crying boy's head, forcing his arms through the sleeves.
"He started crying and carrying on," Hughes would later say, in a statement to police.
"He was crying: 'Get it off, get it off, I'm not a girl'."
Death came slowly: Ashfield would later tell police that Hughes had put the phone book against John's head, and repeatedly beat him with a hammer, until John was limp and dazed, unable to sit up on the bed.
When it became apparent that John had lost consciousness, his mother dunked him under a cold shower, then a hot shower.
Several hours passed before Ashfield took her son to Shoalhaven Hospital. In the meantime, she told her other children to tell police John had been beaten by a gang of teenagers while walking through a park.
Her oldest boy, then aged eight, went on national television to back up the story.
In a shaky voice, he said: "We were going to buy milk and bread when four boys said, 'Come here. We want to bash you up'."
The story was never going to stack up: John was cold and bleeding from the nostrils when he was airlifted to Westmead hospital in Sydney.
Doctor Barry Wilkins would later tell the court he had more than 100 different coloured bruises, suggesting "repeated, non-accidental beating".
His small hands were swollen and bruised, which suggested he had "attempted to fend off an assault". He had suffered a very serious brain injury.
John died the next day, Friday, August 6, 1993. His mother and her boyfriend were charged with murder shortly afterwards.
On the day of John's funeral, his natural father, Brian Ashfield, wailed over the white coffin.
Brian is now dead but he told reporters at the time of his son's murder that he had warned the NSW Department of Community Services that his wife was violent, and that she intended to hurt the children. In fact, DoCS had about 35 notifications that all was not well at Ashfield's home.
Ashfield asked DoCS to take the kids away from her, saying she "felt violent" towards them.
Melissa's life since her brother was killed has been chaotic: she was fostered into the care of DoCS after her mother went to prison but ran away at 11. She bounced around foster homes, and was briefly placed in a nunnery in Grafton, until she fell pregnant at 16, and lost the baby. She admits to "drinking alcohol, doing crazy stuff" to deal with anger and grief but is trying to steady her path. She now lives with her boyfriend, Jason, 33, and is in counselling.
John's uncle, Andrew Ashfield, said the law banning publication of John's story had "protected the people who killed him, and the social workers who let it happen".
"DoCS knew that she was violent, and knew that she was troubled," he said. "But they didn't take the kids until after she killed one of them."
Wendy Campbell, who was Brian's fiance at the time of John's death, wants the case to get media attention because she "promised Brian, if they ever apply for parole, I will be there, and I will stop it".

The Australian (30-6-2007)
Caroline Overington

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