Drowning tragedy father faces child sex charges

A CHEF who lost his wife and two of his children in a flood tragedy is facing shock child sex and drug charges.

Matthew Kabealo's family was torn apart in April 2017 when the van driven by his wife Stephanie King, and carrying their three children, skidded into the flood-swollen Tweed River at Tumbulgum in the wake of Cyclone Debbie.

The couple's youngest daughter, 10-year-old Chloe-May, managed to escape the vehicle and frantically ran for help.

Matthew Kabealo with Chloe-May, Jacob and Ella-Jane. Ella-Jane and Jacob died when the car they were travelling in was washed off the road and into the Tweed River in Tumbulgum, on Monday, April 3, 2017. Picture: FACEBOOK
Matthew Kabealo with Chloe-May, Jacob and Ella-Jane. Ella-Jane and Jacob died when the car they were travelling in was washed off the road and into the Tweed River in Tumbulgum, on Monday, April 3, 2017. Picture: FACEBOOK

But her mother and siblings, Jacob, 7, and Ella-Jane, 11, drowned in the sunken van.

Police hailed Ms King a hero, saying she died trying to save her kids.

It can now be revealed that Mr Kabealo, 50, is facing serious criminal charges.

He has been charged with six offences including two counts of having sexual intercourse with a 14-year-old girl and supplying and possessing cannabis.

The girl is not a relative, police say.

Police have also applied for an apprehended violence order against him on behalf of the alleged victim.

Mr Kabealo was charged by detectives from the NSW police Child Abuse and Sex Crimes squad after an investigation into the alleged offences in June and July last year at Bilambil Heights.

 

Matthew Kabealo, John King and Chloe-May King at the funeral service of Tweed River flood victims Jacob, Stephanie and Ella-Jane King. Picture: Scoot Davis / News Corp.
Matthew Kabealo, John King and Chloe-May King at the funeral service of Tweed River flood victims Jacob, Stephanie and Ella-Jane King. Picture: Scoot Davis / News Corp.

 

He faced Tweed Heads Local Court on Friday where the charges were adjourned until April 19 for an arraignment hearing in Lismore District Court.

Speaking soon after the drowning tragedy in 2017, Mr Kabealo said the feeling of losing most of his family was 'surreal'.

"I'm trying to get my head around it," he said.

"It's horrible. I don't want to do anything. I just don't want to get out of bed. I have no desire to do anything. Ever.

"I do it because I have to not because I want to.

"All I know now is life's short and if you've got a family, go and hug them.

"That's my advice I can give to people."

Mr Kabealo said he was 'shattered' but was trying to stay strong for Chloe-May.

"We're just going to get through it the best we can," he said.

Matthew Kabealo, father of car flood survivor Chloe-May at a cheque presentation for flood victims at Tweed Heads Police Station. Picture Glenn Hampson
Matthew Kabealo, father of car flood survivor Chloe-May at a cheque presentation for flood victims at Tweed Heads Police Station. Picture Glenn Hampson

"Chloe's going the best she can. She's 10 years' old. She lost her mother, brother and sister.

"I don't know what the protocol is for this, how a 10-year-old is going to cope with this. I don't know.

"She lived it. She's the one that escaped."

An gofundme appeal following the tragedy generated more than $150,000 to help the family.

"Mate, I'm not coping. I'd be stuffed without them (all) really, I wouldn't be here,' Mr Kabealo said at the time.

"It's events like this that are keeping me going. Look at the support. The whole community has been behind me.

"But I still don't have a wife and children. It's never going to bring that back. I just have to take it day by day."

Originally published as Drowning tragedy father faces child sex charges


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