A social worker in Fisher River, Man., where Phoenix Sinclair was killed in 2005, says the first call he received about the five-year-old girl was a tip that she was dead.

Inquiry blog

Read the latest entries from the CBC's Katie Nicholson, who is covering the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry:

The public inquiry into Phoenix's death heard testimony on Wednesday from Randy Murdock, a social worker from Intertribal Child and Family Services, who was the first in Manitoba's child welfare system to receive a tip about the child's death.

Phoenix's biological mother, Samantha Kematch, and her boyfriend, Karl Wesley McKay, were convicted in 2008 of first-degree murder in Phoenix's death. They have both been sentenced to life in prison.

While Phoenix died in June 2005, her body wasn't found until 2006 on the Fisher River First Nation, wrapped in plastic in an unmarked shallow grave near the local landfill.

On Wednesday, Murdock told the inquiry that he took a call on March 6, 2006 — almost nine months after Phoenix's death — from the mother of two of McKay's sons.

Gruesome details

"It was the whole phone call — not something that I experienced before or heard about before," Murdock said of the call, which he described as "gruesome."

Inquiry lawyer Derek Olson read aloud Murdock's notes from that call, which contained disturbing details of how McKay's sons witnessed him abusing Phoenix.

"They witnessed physical abuse to a five-year-old female. They called it 'choking the chicken,'" Olson said, reading from Murdock's notes.

"'Who was choking the chicken?' according to Doe No. 3. Her son said it was Karl Wesley McKay."

Doe No. 3 is the mother of McKay's sons. A court-approved publication ban prevents her name, or the name of her sons, from being identified at the inquiry.

According to Murdock's notes, the mother also said her boys saw Phoenix being thrown down the stairs.

"The two boys also said Karl Wesley McKay threw the five-year-old girl down the stairs. The fall down the stairs broke her skull open," according to his notes.

Murdock said he referred the mother's tip to police.

No other calls made about Phoenix, says agency

Intertribal Child and Family Services had no record of previous involvement with McKay regarding Phoenix, but authorities were involved with one incident in which McKay's sons were returned to their mother, the inquiry was told.

Murdock's notes from the phone call indicated that the boys' mother told RCMP she had made several calls to Intertribal Child and Family Services to report that Phoenix was being abused.

The mother is expected to testify later in the inquiry that she had tried to warn the agency that Phoenix was in danger.

However, Murdock said he was unable to confirm that the agency received other tips regarding the little girl.

The head of Intertribal CFS also insisted on Wednesday that the agency did not take any other calls about Phoenix being in danger.

The Phoenix Sinclair inquiry, which has been ongoing since September but halted on several occasions, is trying to determine how Manitoba's child welfare system failed the little girl and how her murder went undetected for more than half a year.

Phoenix had spent much of her life in foster care or with family friends in Winnipeg. The inquiry has already heard that social workers sometimes lost track of who had care of the girl, failed to monitor the family and closed Phoenix's file without seeing her.