Five days before Tara Brown was murdered, she went to the police.
The 24-year-old mother of one showed them a series of text messages from her partner, Lionel Patea, and explained that she feared for her safety. She feared what her partner might do to her.
Her fear proved justified in horrifically violent circumstances.
After dropping her three-year-old daughter to childcare on a Tuesday morning in September of 2015, Brown made the chilling discovery that Patea was waiting in his car and following her.
While she rang 000 and begged for help, he ran her off the road at high speed. He was not deterred by bystanders’ attempts to rescue her.
Patea thrashed his way into her overturned car and bludgeoned her to death on a suburban Gold Coast street with a 7.8-kilogram metal plate.
This week, he was sentenced to life in prison for the senseless and devastating murder.
"Ms Brown lost her life in your hands in a brutal way," Supreme Court Justice Debra Mullins told the court. "She will not now have the joy of seeing her daughter grow up or fulfil the promise of the life that she had led until she was killed by you."
The horrible truth is that Tara Brown knew she was in danger.
"The horrible truth is that Tara Brown knew she was in danger"
A month before she was killed, she had decided to end the relationship after an incident at Auckland International Airport. Patea had seen Brown texting a friend and in a fit of rage chased her through the airport before stealing her phone. Security guards had to intervene. They flew home on separate flights but the dispute didn’t end there.
Patea raged on, initially blocking Brown’s attempts to leave, stealing her money and threatening to cut off access to their daughter.
After he kicked her out, Brown successfully applied for a domestic violence protection order and was moved into a refuge. She worked with her boss to put together an application for sole custody of their daughter.
And it may well have been Brown’s courageous determination to leave her partner, and forge a new life that placed in her grave danger.
Attempting to leave a violent or controlling partner is the time of greatest risk to life and safety. Abusers are more likely threaten to harm or even kill their partners or children if she leaves.
It puts too many women in an impossible position: where the risk associated with staying is very high and the risk of leaving is mortal.
And they are just some of the Australian women who have been murdered in recent times by men enraged by their partner’s decision to leave.
They are the reason domestic violence experts say “Just leaving isn’t always safe.”
So the next time you hear someone ask why women don’t “just leave”, remind them of Tara. Tell them she is the reason many women don’t leave, because they fear the fate they will face if they do. And, too often, that fate is worse than anyone could ever have imagined.
National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line: 1800Respect, 1800 737 732