Tara Brown sensed she was in grave danger a week before Lionel Patea bashed her to death with the cover of a fire hydrant.
Patea – who was on Monday sentenced to life in prison for murdering the mother of his child – had intimidated Ms Brown in the days leading up to the fatal attack on September 8, 2015, which occurred when he ran her vehicle off the road and bashed her on a Gold Coast street.
The pair were in the Auckland airport on August 30, 2015, on their return to Australia after visiting New Zealand to scatter the ashes of Ms Brown’s grandfather.
Patea saw Ms Brown texting a friend, and in a fit of rage chased her through the airport before stealing her phone, Justice Debra Mullins said during her sentencing remarks.
Another confrontation took place when they returned to Australia, with Patea fronting up to Ms Brown’s home to tell her she was not to see their young daughter again.
Ms Brown had seen Patea’s abusive side before. He had been convicted three times in 2012 for breaches of domestic violence orders, only a year after their child was born.
In 2015, Patea avoided jail despite his involvement in a 2013 brawl between bikies outside a Broadbeach restaurant, an incident which prompted the LNP government’s crackdown on outlaw motorcycle gangs.
Those in Ms Brown’s inner circle also knew Patea was a threat. In court, Ms Brown’s mother Natalie Hinton labelled him a “self-centred monster” and a “misogynistic narcissist” who controlled Ms Brown and caused her to doubt herself.
A week after the airport incident, Ms Brown successfully applied for a domestic violence protection order and moved into a refuge. Patea was able to track her down.
The court heard that on the day of the fatal attack, Patea rang up their daughter’s day care centre to find out whether she was booked in, and then chased Ms Brown’s car through the streets of the Gold Coast after the child had been dropped off.
They made it to Macquarie Avenue in Molendinar before he sent her car careering over a fence and into a ditch.
He initially walked away, but came back and continued the assault. He bludgeoned her with the hydrant cover while she was trapped in her vehicle, and shoved bystanders out of the way before stealing a ute and fleeing.
Patea would emerge 30 minutes later with severe self-inflicted injuries, but said through his lawyers he had forgotten the entire episode.
Ms Brown clung to life in hospital before succumbing to her injuries on September 9, 2015.
“Somehow, her huge heart found the strength to grasp onto life for another 36 hours and she gave to us all time to say goodbye,” Ms Hinton said in her victim impact statement.
DV victims should ‘remember Tara’: mother
On Monday, Patea showed glimpses of emotion for the first time during the court process, having been steely-faced during previous hearings on the Gold Coast.
The one-time Bandido gang member wrote an apology note to Ms Brown’s family, in which he declared: “Tara was everything to me.”
But Patea could barely bring himself to look at Ms Hinton or Leesa Kennedy – a Macquarie Avenue resident who rushed to Ms Brown’s aid – when the pair spoke in the packed Supreme Court.
And he stared straight ahead with no expression as Justice Debra Mullins sentenced him to life in jail for murder – a certain outcome under Queensland law.
Patea has no hope of freedom until at least 2037, when the parole board could consider releasing him back into the community.
Ms Brown’s supporters exchanged hugs outside the court at the conclusion of one of the state’s most shocking domestic violence cases.
“We’re very grateful for the sentencing today, a life sentence,” Ms Hinton told reporters as she choked back tears.
“It doesn’t bring back Tara though.”
Ms Hinton urged women suffering at the hands of abusive partners to seek help.
“Remember Tara when you’re seeking help. Remember the other woman. Don’t become one of those women,” she said.