Luke Selwyn -March 2010


SHE was his constant companion who helped him navigate the confusing world his autism had created.

So when Bonnie the dog finally came home alone and wet, Luke Selwyn’s parents knew something terrible had happened to their boy.

Police and volunteers had been searching the family’s property in Wilberforce, northwest of Sydney, for hours when Bonnie finally came home just before 11.30pm.

It would take police divers another hour to find the six-year-old’s body in the neighbour’s dam early yesterday.

It is believed the severely autistic boy, who could speak only a few words, had mistaken the muddy dam for a swimming pool.

“He had just started swimming classes and he was doing really well,” his aunt Leesha Cooke said yesterday. “He was being awarded gold stars.”

The classes were part of the intensive therapy his family had been committed to since he was diagnosed with autism.

While Luke barely spoke, therapy had helped him go from a boy who could not interact to one who would give you a cheeky little smile now and then, Ms Cooke said.

“Children with autism like what is familiar and they repeat things over and over again. The dam must have looked like the pool he was learning in and he just went for a swim.”

Luke’s parents Fiona and Tom Selwyn had spent everything they had on therapy for Luke and his four-year-old brother Jarrad, who also has a form of autism.

“My sister and her husband didn’t care that he didn’t talk, they didn’t care that he wasn’t perfect and while he took a lot of love from them he gave them a love that most parents take for granted,” Ms Cooke said.

She said the family’s loss was made worse as they spent all of his short life watching over him.

At the moment Luke’s nine-year-old sister Jessica blames herself for the tragedy.

While only in Year 4, Jessica has always been the self-appointed protector of her brothers and because Luke managed to sneak out while the family was burying her pet axolotl she felt it was her fault.

“I just miss my brother,” she said clutching a photo of her brother.

His aunt, however, sees Luke’s death somewhat differently.

“I want to get him back for them but now he is free, he is free from autism and he doesn’t have to suffer any more,” she said.

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