Dionne Batrice Grills manslaughter trial hears ex-director asked her to get toddler off minibus

A former nursery director imprisoned for leaving a toddler in a minibus, causing his death, said in court that he asked his colleague Dionne Batrice Grills to help the boy get out of the vehicle.

DISCLAIMER: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that this article contains an image of a deceased person.

But the court also heard Michael Glenn Lewis only revealed it to police the day he was sentenced to a six-year prison term for manslaughter.

Three-year-old Maliq “Meeky” Nicholas Floyd Namok-Malamoo died of heat stress in the Edmonton Goodstart Early Learning Center minibus after being left on board for several hours on February 18, 2020.

Meeky had been picked up from his home and taken to daycare in the bus driven by Lewis.

Ms Grills, 36, the other educator on the bus that day, pleaded not guilty to manslaughter.

Three-year-old Maliq Nicholas Floyd Namok-Malamoo, known to the family as “Meeky”, died in February 2020.(Provided: Namok Family)

Cairns Supreme Court heard police came to the guardhouse to speak with Lewis when he was jailed in February 2021 and asked if there were “any shortcomings [he] would like to fill”.

Lewis asked the officers if they were “trying to prosecute Dionne” and confirmed that he knew a magistrate had dismissed the manslaughter charge against her during a committal hearing.

The court was told that Lewis asked the police: “How did she get down?”

“And then, for the first time to a person in authority, you said, ‘Did I tell him to look for it?'” asked defense attorney Tony Kimmins.

“Yes,” Lewis replied.

A woman wearing a black jacket, white shirt and holding a black handbag walks outside a courthouse.
Former educator Dionne Batrice Grills is on trial at the Cairns Supreme Court.(ABC Far North: Christopher Testa)

Mr Kimmins told Lewis that “it was pretty clear that you were very, very upset that Dionne got rid of the charge”.

“I don’t know if upset is the word I would use,” Lewis said.

The court heard Lewis told police: ‘I hope you can get Dionne, honest to God.’

“And by that you meant to have her convicted on the charge?” Mr. Kimmins asked.

“Yes,” Lewis answered.

A daycare center with a minibus parked outside.
Maliq Namok-Malamoo attended the Goodstart Early Learning Center in the Cairns suburb of Edmonton.(ABC Far North: Mark Rigby)

‘You catch it, I have to go’

As of February 2020, Ms Grills was the before and after school care co-ordinator for the daycare and was primarily responsible for primary school aged children.

The court heard that Lewis expected Ms Grills to pick up Meeky that morning on one of the daycare’s regular bus routes, with another member of staff absent.

The court heard Ms Grills had not made the bus journey and it was around 9.30am when she and Mr Lewis picked up the toddler.

Lewis had returned from Brisbane late the previous night and was late for an important meeting, the court heard.

He told the court that Meeky was ‘unusually quiet’ and that Ms Grills was, on this occasion, ‘quiet, reserved [and] very far behind”.

Lewis said when they returned to daycare with Meeky, he told Ms Grills “you have it, I have to go”.

He told the court that Ms Grills did not respond and he could not say whether she heard.

A woman is reading a page, standing between two people.
Muriel Namok, the mother of a three-year-old boy who died after being abandoned in a minibus, gave evidence at trial.(ABC Far North: Holly Richardson)

Child found at school

A few minutes later, Lewis returned to the bus and drove to the meeting, which he was an hour late for.

He did not return to the vehicle until around 2 p.m., when the meeting ended.

Lewis went to get fuel and picked up his vice principal at Edmonton Goodstart to pick up a group of kids from Hambledon State School.

It was at the school that Meeky’s body was found.

During re-examination by prosecutor Nathan Crane, Lewis told the court that he did not bring up what he said to Ms Grills during his own plea hearing because he “didn’t think it was so relevant”.

The trial, before Judge Peter Applegarth, continues.

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