WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
At least nine Tasmanian women were murdered by their partners in the past two decades.
The majority of those women had been victims of ongoing violence, and abuse, and at least three of them had intervention orders out against their killers.
Launching a new campaign this White Ribbon Day, The Examiner is questioning why these women became another statistic, and what barriers can be removed to support those who seek emergency support.
On a regular Friday in April 2001 Sonja Mercer, driven by fear for her life, went to Launceston Police Station to report that she had allegedly been beaten by her partner, Darren Batchelor. Batchelor followed her.
According to Coroner Peter Wilson police had assured Ms Mercer that Batchelor would not be leaving the police station.
But, after she left, Ms Mercer was again followed.
After arriving home she packed her bag in an attempt to flee. Half way through packing, Ms Mercer was shot dead by Batchelor through the window of her home at Longford. Batchelor then shot himself.
In December 2002, while the coroner was still deliberating over the murder of Sonja Mercer, Michelle Morcom was shot dead by Jamie Venn - a man who she had taken out a restraint order against.
She had arranged for her brother to look after her, in her family home with her children because she was fearful of what Venn may do to her.
A month after the intervention order was placed, and as her children slept, her killer hid in waiting for her to return home at Mayfield. When she did, Venn shot and killed her before turning the gun on himself.
Three years later, in June 2005 Andrea Wrathall was shot dead by her former partner, Stephen Pugh, at Brighton.
Coroner Olivia McTaggart said Ms Wrathall "had largely moved on from the flawed relationship and was getting on with her life".
Ms Wrathall had taken out what turned out to be a largely ineffective intervention order against Pugh. Despite that, she was continually harassed by him.
On Monday afternoon on June 13 Pugh broke into her house and gunned her down as she tried to run away. After he missed the first time, and as Ms Wrathall lay injured, he shot her in the head.
Ms McTaggart concluded that it was losing control that drove Pugh to take the life of Ms Wrathall.
Twenty-four-year-old Samantha Muirhead was bashed within an inch of her life with an electric iron by her boyfriend, Kuol Kuol, in 2011 at Dynnyrne.
While she lay stunned on the ground of her home, Kuol partially strangled Ms Muirhead with the cord of the iron. Lifeless and struggling for air, Ms Muirhead was then stabbed repeatedly by Kuol until she was dead.
Coroner Glenn Hay wrote that Kuol's actions were "brutal and vicious".
Mr Hay wrote that Ms Muirhead said she was anxious about Kuol's demands for "constant intimate attention". And while no previous abuse was noted in Mr Hay's report, he concluded the "deaths appear to be the result of the deteriorating relationship".
In 2012 Meagan Wilton had been separated from her former partner, Patrick Daley, for at least five years when she was murdered by him at Hamilton.
Ms Wilton had moved on with her life and was seeing a new man when Daley stormed inside Ms Wilton's home at 4am and shot both her and her partner in the chest with a shotgun.
After that, he walked up to the bodies, pressed the gun against them, and fired again.
According to Coroner Stephen Carey, at an incident in February 2012, police were told by Ms Wilton that Daley had been abusive towards her.
Mr Carey said, "the attending police officer categorised this incident as 'just a family argument'."
In November that year, Relationships Australia - a group that provides assistance in family violence instances - were engaged by Daley to mediate between him and Ms Wilton.
Just over a month later, after Ms Wilton connected through Relationships Australia, Daley had murdered her.
That same year Jessica Kupsch, after she was subject to a "lengthy and serious history of family violence", was murdered by Matthew Tunks.
The relationship was categorised by serial reoffending, repeat intervention orders and stints in and out prison for Tunks because of the abuse he inflicted on Ms Kupsch.
In August 2012, after Tunks was again released from prison, he met with Ms Kupsch at the Penny Royal Hotel and stomped her to death.
Coroner Simon Cooper was straightforward and decisive in his recommendations after investigating the case. He found serious failings by the police and justice system. He said the police response was "inappropriate", and said a delay in their service proved critical.
The following year, a 62-year-old woman was killed by her husband in a case that showed it was not only the justice system failing victims, but also the mental health system.
Jillian Evans was murdered after her husband - who was suffering from serious mental illness - struck her in the head with a pole and then stood on her throat until she was dead.
No history of violence was shown in Olivia McTaggart's coronial investigation, and it was only the psychosis of Mr Evans that had changed in the relationship between Mrs and Mr Evans.
Ms McTaggart recommended that the Launceston General Hospital could "review its procedures regarding the timely provision of discharge summaries to the patient's treating practitioners in the case of mental health patients".
Two months after Mrs Evans' murder, Karel Kugel was slain by a man, Mark Mason, who she "had a close relationship with". Mason had 21 police recorded incidences of "having offended directly or indirectly, including assaults, against Ms Kugel".
He had breached both restraint and family violence orders designed to protect Ms Kugel. He had been released from prison just three months before she was murdered.
Ms Kugel was at her home in Devonport when Mason stabbed her twice, in the neck, from which she bled to death.
It appeared that Ms Kugel felt obliged to help Mason. She had offered him refuge before he murdered her.
Despite police intervention on a number of occasions, and every legislative protection being afforded to Ms Kugel, she was still killed by a man she cared for.
Coroner Olivia McTaggart concluded she was comfortable with the police approach to the situation. She said that Ms Kugel seemed unable to end the relationship.
Ms McTaggart concluded, "this case highlights the limits to which court orders can protect individuals who are persistently complicit in their breach".
Roughly two years later in a more public crime, Olga Neubert was slain in the middle of a Hobart street by her ex-husband, Klaus Neubert.
She had obtained an intervention order against him when they lived in America in September 2014.
In Tasmania in April 2015, Mrs Neubert went to her lawyer and the police in fear of her life and pleaded for help, but it never came.
She was directed by police to the Magistrates Court where she could fill out a nine-page document and pay $32.40, plus $15 for photocopying, to apply for a temporary order against her ex-husband. She was never able to apply for the order.
Just over three weeks later Mrs Neubert was driving with her friend when her ex-husband saw her, chased her down in his car and gunned her down.
In her conclusion Coroner Olivia McTaggart said, "I accept that Tasmania Police's inaction (and the legal advice she received) did not cause Mrs Neubert's death".
"However, I consider it necessary to comment that both led to a situation where she was unprotected by a system designed to protect people such as Mrs Neubert," she wrote.
For others fighting to escape an abusive relationship, the court administrative fee and lengthy application process could become yet another barrier to freedom, just as it was for Mrs Neubert.
While a Justice Department spokesman said applications could be made to waive, reduce, postpone or refund filing fees, there was no guarantee.
Historically, financial control is one of the most common threats men use to abuse their partners.
It is part of coercive control, which can involve manipulation, emotional abuse, and isolation.
And it is something Tasmanian support workers have been dealing with for decades.
Magnolia Place, otherwise known as the Launceston Women's Shelter, offers crisis accommodation for those running from danger.
One of the shelter's support workers, Marg, has watched countless women walk through the doors trying to escape not only physical violence, but psychological trauma.
"When women leave, sometimes they are very dependent on their partner's income, they are from a single-income family, and they have no money of their own. A lot of the women we work with, there is a lot of fear around trying to make that move to leave, as the men control the finances," she said.
"We also know a lot of men will control their partner's bank account, or their Centrelink payments.
"Then there are women who have debts incurred in their name, which is often done under coercion or purely manipulation, and when they leave they are still burdened by those debts. When we are talking about the impact of running, or relocating, there are all these monetary worries for women.
"It can come down to what is more important, is it getting the order, or just getting to safety? Do they pay the nearly $50 or use that to buy their children's medication?"
While the shelter has been operating for more than 45 years, the issue of family violence has not disappeared.
And with this year's health crisis came a spike in violence - and that spike only revealed the cases reported.
The added pressure of the pandemic has seen already struggling organisations overwhelmed with calls for help.
Magnolia Place itself remained at full capacity, with a long waiting list of women hoping to access the service.
"We will often have calls coming in from the hospital for example about women who are in a really bad situation, and there is nothing we can do about it," Marg said.
"Whilst the state government has committed to an affordable housing strategy, and quite an extensive amount of money for us to increase our capacity, which has been complimented by a federal government grant, if we look at our waiting list, we would likely still be turning people away even if with increased capacity.
"And in the current market, affordable rental properties are so rare, and the public housing waitlist is horrific."
Friday marks White Ribbon Day Australia, and this year the organisation has called on the community to stand up and say no to violence, and not just when it is happening to them.
Phil Crowden has been on the Launceston White Ribbon committee for a decade, and said it was frustrating to see the number of cases continue to rise, despite ongoing awareness campaigns.
"The numbers are simply not decreasing, and then the number of deaths in Australia due to intimate partner violence has exceeded one a week," he said.
"Raising awareness is one thing, doing something about it in a positive sense is actually another, and it's critical that we start doing that. So what we are looking at in terms of the focus this year, with White Ribbon Day, is to not simply just raise awareness, but also give people suggestions, actions and strategies of what people can actually do."
Agreeing with Mr Crowden about the need for the community to take more action, fellow committee member Jeff Harper said "passive compliance" needed to end.
"A person that sits there and listens to a sexist joke, or anything that is derogatory to women, if you don't stand up and say anything, then you're actually passively complying with that action," he said.
"It is is not just about taking action against the physical component either, the physical violence is the end result of a build up of actions and behaviours that lead up to that. And in a person's psyche, that can be as damaging as a physical injury."
For those seeking help, Family Violence Counselling and Support Service is available on1800 608 122 from 9am to midnight weekdays, and 4pm to midnight on weekends and public holidays.
Telephone and online counselling is available at 1800 RESPECT or by calling 1800 737 732.
Lifeline is also available 24/7 on 13 11 14.
To access crisis accommodation through Magnolia Place, contact Housing Connect Launceston on 1800 800 588.
Want to join the push? See the petition to remove legal fees for lodging an interim family violence order here.
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