Her son, Harley, told Nine News on Friday that his mother was allegedly unaware the young couple and their three-week-old baby were asleep upstairs when she visited a man who was temporarily living at the property in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
“As far as I know, from what I’ve been told by my Mum … this person she has gone to see has taken her money [and] left the house with her in there. So her being in a rage – she’s been walked over a lot before by a lot of people – her being in a rage [she] set a mattress on fire and she left the house,” he said.
Harley said he got a message from his mother about 4am, which said, “I think I did something stupid,” with a photo of the burning mattress.
“She got to my house later that morning … she told me ‘I think I did something stupid, I set fire to a mattress, I’m worried it’s going to spread and hurt other people’. She didn’t know anyone else was in there. She wasn’t aware of it.”
He said his mother did not know about the deaths of the young couple and their newborn until she was arrested.
“She had no idea at all. I know she will never be able to forgive herself for what she’s done.”
Harley said Ms Hayes was a “really loving mother” who had done everything she could to take care of him.
“She hasn’t always made the perfect decisions but she has always done what she thought was right. And what’s always been best for me,” he said.
“I just want [people] to know she didn’t mean to do what she did.”
After her arrest, Ms Hayes was remanded in custody and faced Melbourne Magistrates Court on Thursday night. She did not appear during a brief hearing, instead remaining at Richmond police station. It is Ms Hayes’ first time in police custody.
Magistrate Luisa Bazzani heard that Ms Hayes is on two types of medication and ordered she be assessed in prison to manage a pain condition.
“I’ve been told that her state in prison is poor,” the magistrate said.
“Yes, Your Honour, that about sums it up at the moment,” lawyer Erin Byrt replied.
Ms Hayes will be served a brief of evidence in January and is due to appear in court on March 1 next year. Police say they are not looking for anyone else in relation to the blaze.
Ms Forrest and Mr Singh moved to the townhouse in Totem Way less than a month ago, after the birth of Ivy, who would have been three weeks old on Friday.
Ms Forrest’s devastated sister, Emily, went to the scene of the fire on Thursday.
“It should be the perfect time of their life, and now this awful tragedy has happened,” she said.
Ms Forrest had loved being a first-time mother. “She did a fantastic job; she really showed me up, that’s for sure,” Emily said, smiling through tears.
“She was absolutely smitten; she was so over the moon to become a mum and she did so well.”
Emily said she and her sister were inseparable as children, with just four years between them.
“She had the biggest, boldest personality. She was great. I’ll always cherish the memories that I had growing up with her. She was my only sibling,” she said.
Emily had the chance to meet her niece, Ivy, who was born on November 13, only twice, but she said she would treasure the memories.
“I came home from a camping trip early and snuck into the hospital and got in a quick little visit despite COVID, and then we had a beautiful family dinner a week or so ago, so we got to meet everybody and our son got to meet his cousin, so that was really beautiful.”
She said her sister’s 28-year-old partner, who was known to the family as Indi, loved her dearly.
“He loves their daughter just as much, so to see this is just heartbreaking,” she said.
Emily said she was now trying to support her devastated parents. “Burying your own child is something no one wishes upon anyone.
“I was in a lot of denial yesterday and only hearing some things on the news … I just needed to come and see that something had actually really happened.”
She wanted to thank all the neighbours who had tried to save her sister’s family.
“It just makes me feel at ease that there were decent people around who were trying to help her. To risk your own life to try and help save someone in that horrible situation.”
Emily Forrest has set up a GoFundMe page to help her family with the funeral costs.
Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or make a report at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au.
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Simone is a crime reporter for The Age. Most recently she covered breaking news for The Age, and before that for The Australian in Melbourne.
Rachael Dexter is a breaking news reporter at The Age.
David Estcourt is a court and general news reporter at The Age.