"I will never be the same again" Husband speaks after his wife drove to remote location and set herself and two daughters on fire

Wednesday, April 25, 2024 – A migrant mother-of-two who felt isolated in her new Australian home drove to a remote area and set herself and her two daughters on fire, after telling her husband she was taking the girls to McDonald's.

James Swan Palakamannil has given the Coroners Court of Victoria a harrowing account of what his life has been like since his wife Jasmine Thomas and daughters Carolyn and Evlyn died in a Melbourne car fire two years ago.

“To see the coffin go down with all of your favourite people in it changes your life,” he told the court on Tuesday, April 23, The Age reported.

"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 (2022), the sky became three stars richer.”

Mr Palakamannil remembers how three-year-old Carolyn would drag a chair to reach the front door handle and open it as he arrived home from work every day. She would always be wearing her favourite colour, pink.

Her older sister, six-year-old Evlyn, “was the boss of the house”.

“She wore the pants,” Mr Palakamannil told the court.

Their mother Jasmine Thomas suffered from postnatal depression and then became paranoid during the Covid pandemic.

On the night of March 24, 2022, Mr Palakamannil had returned to their Lyndhurst home in Melbourne's south-east to find their daughters playing on a mobile phone and his wife laying in bed. A short time later, Ms Thomas told him she was taking the girls to McDonald's.

However, CCTV footage showed the mother first went to a service station in nearby suburb Cranbourne West where she bought and filled a jerry can. Ms Thomas then drove herself and her daughters to a McDonald's car park where they sat until about 7.30pm.

Less than 10 minutes later, she drove to a secluded spot on the Western Port Highway, covered her car in fuel and set it alight with herself and two daughters inside.

Emergency services rushed to the scene after a passer-by reported the fire, which was brought under control in 15 minutes. Ms Thomas, Evlyn and Carolyn all died in the horrific blaze.

“Suddenly, there is no one waiting for me at the door,” Mr Palakamannil told the court through tears.

“[I'm now] living in an empty and silent house.” Mr Palakamannil and Ms Thomas had married in India in 2012 after meeting on an arranged marriage website.

The couple, who were both born in Kuwait, moved to Australia and were granted permanent residency in 2015. Mr Palakamannil recalled how the Gulf War inspired him to teach Evlyn to be a good person.

“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,” he said.

Ms Thomas worked in Melbourne hospitals as a nurse but unexpectedly resigned from Mulgrave Private Hospital in 2021.

However, she stayed as a casual employee at Dandenong Hospital. During this time she told her family she was having marriage problems.

Coroner John Cain noted Ms Thomas had contacted a number of professional services, including police, and experienced postnatal depression. He found those services had no opportunity to prevent her murder-suicide.

“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.

Instead, the court heard how Ms Thomas was socially isolated with her problems often disregarded by her extended family.

“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,” Mr Palakamannil said.

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