Father recalls losing his family in deliberate car fire

Shortly after, she said she was taking the girls to McDonald’s, but CCTV footage showed the mother instead drove to a service station in Cranbourne West, where she bought and filled a fuel container.

She then drove to the McDonald’s car park where she remained parked until about 7.30pm.

The scene of the crime.

The scene of the crime.Credit: Nine News

Fire crews were called to a burning car in a nearby area off the Western Port Highway less than 10 minutes later.

Cain found Thomas and her daughters all died from the effects of the blaze, and a police investigation found a significant amount of petrol was poured throughout the car.

Nicholas Ngai, the counsel assisting the coroner, said Palakamannil and Thomas married in India in 2012 after meeting online through a website for arranged marriages.

Both originally from Kuwait, they moved to Australia and were granted permanent residency in 2015.

Sisters Evlyn and Carolyn James.

Sisters Evlyn and Carolyn James.

Thomas began working at Melbourne hospitals as a nurse, but her husband told family she developed post-natal depression and became paranoid during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2021, Thomas unexpectedly resigned from Mulgrave Private Hospital but continued casual work at Dandenong Hospital, and told family she was having issues with her marriage.

Palakamannil sobbed in court as he revealed the harrowing aftermath of the fire.

“My oldest daughter, Evlyn, brought us a lot of happiness,” he said.

“I watched her take her first steps, say her first words. I’d give her pep talks before bedtime … about famine and the war and how kids go hungry, about global warming and climate change … to put a desire in her heart to … be a force for change.

Jasmine Thomas died in the blaze alongside her daughters.

Jasmine Thomas died in the blaze alongside her daughters.

“She was the boss of the house. She wore the pants.

“My late wife, Jasmine, tried her best. I wish she had … sought help. She struggled to connect and engage with people and make friends. When she couldn’t any more … in the process she took out my most prized possessions.”

Palakamannil said he doubted he would ever recover from burying the three most important people in his life on the same day.

“To see the coffin go down with all of your favourite people in it changes your life,” he said.

Three people are dead following a car fire on Western Port Highway.

Three people are dead following a car fire on Western Port Highway.Credit: Nine News

“I will never be the same again. Never get to touch, feel or see them again. They will remain pictures on a screen.

“On March 24 [that year], the sky became three stars richer.”

Cain noted Thomas had contact with a number of professional services, including police, but found no fault and that those agencies had no opportunities to prevent her fatal act.

He found the mother was socially isolated, and her fears were largely disregarded by her wider family.

“Despite child protection and Victoria Police holding concerns about her mental health, as she was not assessed as acutely unwell, and did not wish to engage in services, she did not receive any formal assistance or diagnosis,” Cain said.

If you or anyone you know needs support call Lifeline 131 114, or Beyond Blue 1300 224 636.

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