An Australian man who tossed his daughter from a central city bridge in front of her two young brothers and horrified peak-hour motorists was on Monday jailed for life.

Arthur Freeman, 37, was convicted of murdering four-year-old Darcey by throwing her from Melbourne's West Gate bridge on January 29, 2009 amid a bitter custody battle with his ex-wife over their three children.

Her brothers, aged two and six, watched from the car as Darcey plunged 80 metres (260 feet), sustaining massive internal injuries and ultimately drowning in a case that shocked the city.

The jury heard that after the father left the scene, his eldest son Ben begged him to go back because "Darcey can't swim. But he kept on driving. He didn't go back and get her."

It was supposed to have been Darcey's first day at school.

Freeman pleaded not guilty by reason of mental impairment, but a Supreme Court jury rejected his defence after lengthy and emotional deliberations earlier this month.

Judge Paul Coghlan on Monday sentenced Freeman to life in prison, describing it as a "horrible" crime calculated to hurt his former wife "as profoundly as possible."

"This was the killing of an innocent child. The circumstances of the killing were horrible," said Coghlan.

"The throwing of your four-year-old daughter from a bridge more than 80 metres above the ground could not be more horrible.

"What Darcey's last thoughts might have been does not bear thinking about and her death must have been a painful and protracted one."

Coghlan said he did not regard Freeman as being beyond redemption and ruled that he should be allowed to apply for parole after 32 years.

"Whatever happens you will spend what may be regarded by many as the best years of your life in prison," the judge said.

Source: AFP Asian Edition

Image via WikiMedia Commons.