Fletcher and Spencer

Just over a year ago Fletcher and Spencer suffered horrific burns after being set on fire by their own father - innocent victims of an unspeakable revenge attack. Yet these special little boys won't be beaten.Today, Paul Brian Edward Connelly was jailed for 20 years, to serve a minimum of 15, guilty on two counts of attempted murder.

But mum Alison Lander will not be beaten. Her loving bond with nine-year-old Fletcher and five-year-old Spencer is obvious - and it is no wonder given what they have endured the past year.

Fletcher has burns to 23 per cent of his body; Spencer had burns to 37 per cent of his body, including full thickness burns to his shoulders and neck.These two very special boys survived an horrific attack inflicted on them by their own father.

Spencer and Fletcher are the innocent victims of Paul Brian Connelly, a man who refused to accept his marriage to Alison was over and, on December 6 of last year, tried to murder his own sons.

"I have to see this every day," said Alison. "Their scars might be on the outside but mine are on the inside.

"This is a man I was married to for 13 years. The father of my children. I thought he loved his children and I trusted him to have those boys and he betrayed that trust."They worshipped the ground their father walked on. They often told their dad that they loved him and he would reciprocate, say he loved them too."

Forensic psychologist Ian Joblin has assessed over a dozen dads who have harmed or killed their own children over his 36 years in practise.

"They do seem like everyday dads," he said.

"They will present ordinarily as if there's nothing wrong but when the high emotion involved with separation typically happens, then they will flip into this other persona.

"I don't think there is a name for it but it certainly and unfortunately seems to be a developing trend in serious crime.

"The children are used as instruments of revenge and that means that the father often does not take on any remorse, to the mother of the children it's like 'look what you made me do', as if its your fault, not my fault. He is offloading his guilt from himself onto her."

Alison had tried to save the marriage, been to counselling. From her point of view it was irreparable.

It was just three weeks before Christmas when Alison set off in search of a new home for her and the boys.

What Alison did not know was the soon-to-be ex-husband she had left behind had already hatched a plot so evil and so twisted it almost defies comprehension.

"It is not easy to think about it and I don't like to think about it quite honestly. I struggle to talk about it," Alison bravely admits.

"I know on the Wednesday he picked both children up from school and daycare and went home.

"He had been to the supermarket and bought lots of what we label as junk-food lollies and had those in the car. He got their favourite toys and gave them to them in the car.

"Both children were still in the car and he set the car on fire."

It was a miracle they survived.

"Fletcher tells me the story of getting himself out of the care," says Alison.

"When I first saw him in the hospital in emergency he tells me he dropped and rolled and that was thanks to the fire brigade visiting the school a week before.

"The boys spent months recovering in hospital. Spencer had a month in intensive care and 15 operations and will require further surgeries.

He has burns to his knees, hands, arms, neck, shoulders, face and head. The tips of his fingers on his left hand had to be amputated to the first knuckle.

Spencer, though, has not lost his sense of fun.

His older brother, Fletcher, though, understands exactly what happened that fateful day and knows why his looks are affected.

"He has struggled with it. He is very self-conscious about it and wears a hat in public all the time because he has a bald spot," adds Alison.Family friend Mark Whittle is heading a community effort to support the family going ahead.

He said: "Well I know there are a lot of very worthy causes but I think this one is very worthy and certainly has touched the hearts of people, knowing the boys were so young.

"The boys are going to need support through the ensuing years right through teenage years to adulthood and so it would be great if we can still have money being raised and donated ."

While the community rallied, Paul Connelly inflicted further pain from behind bars when he pleaded not guilty to attempted murder, claiming the explosion was an accident, and stood trial.

After a week-long court case the jury took just one hour to find Connelly guilty and today he was sentenced to 20 years jail with a 15 year minimum."His not guilty plea meant that a nine-year-old had to testify against his father," says Alison.

"I hated it, absolutely hated it that a child should have to go to court. Who would put a child through that?

"I don't think any sentence is long enough.

"He has inflicted a life sentence on them. They're going to grow up and look in the mirror every day and see what he's done.

"The good thing is he's got them too. He got burnt too. I hope there are mirrors in that prison so he can see the scars on him.

"He was angry, he was angry at me. It had nothing to do with those boys."

Today, at an ordinary house on an ordinary suburban street, there is no evidence of the horror that occurred.

Alison and her boys have moved on, justice has been served and their future is looking bright.

"I've learnt that there are a lot of beautiful and lovely people out there."

If you are concerned about the mental health of yourself or a loved one, seek support and information by calling Lifeline 13 11 14

To donate to Spencer and Fletcher visit

https://donateplanet.com/charities/read/donate-planet-foundation/fletcher-and-spencers-journey-to-recovery/