A Port Hedland mother who tried to get help from a women’s refuge the night before she killed her three children and set their house on fire will have to serve at least 25 years in jail, with a judge describing the tragedy as a “sad and distressing case”. Margaret Dale Hawke had been grappling unsuccessfully with the responsibility of being a mother for sometime before she stabbed and strangled her 10-year-old daughter and seven-year-old son, and suffocated her four-month-old baby boy at their Anderson Street home in July 2022. After she killed her children, the 36-year-old walked to the beach where she disposed of the knife before returning to the house where she lit fires in the front and back rooms. It was revealed in court that on the night before Hawke carried out the horrific murders, she sought assistance from the local women’s shelter but was turned away because it was full and did not have capacity to care for her children. A taxi was called to take Hawke to her mother’s house in South Hedland but she did not have any money for the fare, so the driver took her home free of charge. The following day, Hawke went to her eldest children’s primary school in the morning before travelling to her mother’s house who, the court was told, noticed that she appeared to be coming down from drugs. After leaving her mother’s house, Hawke returned to her home with her kids and brother, who left just after 3pm. About 3.30pm, Hawke carried out the unthinkable. She strangled then stabbed her daughter first in the front of the house, then did the same to her seven-year-old son after telling both of them that she loved them and asking for forgiveness. She then tried to drown her four-month-old but was unsuccessful so she smothered him instead. In sentencing Hawke, Supreme Court Justice Michael Lundberg said words could scarcely convey the terrible brutality in which she killed her two eldest children saying their pain and suffering while being attacked by their own mother can barely be contemplated. He said the baby would have also experienced tremendous suffering in his final minutes but hoped that because of his tender age he might not have understood what was happening to him. “All three children were vulnerable,” Justice Lundberg said. “The baby was uniquely vulnerable. You were the primary care giver for these three. They were dependent on you, they trusted you and you breached that trust.” And while he told Hawke that he must punish her for the horrific crimes, Justice Lundberg said it was clear by her emotional reaction last week – where Hawke banged her head against the dock when the harrowing details of how she killed her children was read out – and her behaviour in her police interviews where she banged her head violently against a wall, that she was not only remorseful but also couldn’t comprehend what she had done. “You accepted you did the worst thing possible, you accepted you hurt your babies,” he said. Justice Lundberg also said it was clear after the birth of her third child in February that she was not coping and struggled to complete daily tasks and that her attempts to find help were “tragically” not available at the time. The court was told after the birth Hawke asked to stay at an Aboriginal hostel because she wanted somewhere clean to care for her new baby but was refused by the department because she already had a house. Justice Lundberg said he also took into account Hawke’s deprived childhood and history of trauma saying he would give full weight to those factors and found it was causally connected to her offending. The court was told her life had been marked by extreme violence and substance abuse which affected her ability to deal with stress and regulate her emotions effectively. With regards to setting the house on fire, Justice Lundberg said he found that she was mentally distraught and acting irrationally and he took that into account. He jailed Hawke for life with a 25-year non-parole period for each of the murders but ordered they be served concurrently.