The home of a woman who went missing in 1978 was covered in blood when family members visited her before her disappearance, the Launceston Coroner's Court heard.
Westbury man John Shepherd, now in his 70s, was named as a person of interest in the disappearance and possible death of Darlene Geertsema at Devonport in October 1978, and details about her disappearance and subsequent investigations have been revealed for the first time.
Coroner Simon Cooper was told Mr Shepherd was often violent towards Ms Geertsema, as well as a woman he was married to before her, and the woman he is currently married to and who supported him at the court on Thursday.
Counsel assisting Madeleine Wilson told the court Ms Geertsema's sister Helen Pocock went to a home the couple had shared to collect some of Ms Geertsema's belongings and arrived to see blood "all over the sheets, walls and floor".
The court heard details given by several of the couple's acquaintances about the violence that occurred in the relationship.
Ms Wilson said an acquaintance had said Mr Shepherd was "very violent" and he would drag Ms Geertsema around the house and gave her black eyes. That same person had said Ms Geertsema regularly moved house to try and get away from Mr Shepherd, but he "always found her".
Ms Wilson said another person close to the pair said they had seen Ms Geertsema with "bruises, black eyes and a busted lip", and that she was "regularly away" on which occasions she was thought to be in hospital.
The court heard one of Ms Geertsema's six children, Tanya, had seen her mother barricade her bedroom door with a wardrobe only for Mr Shepherd to bust through to her. It heard another of her daughters, Sharon, was locked in a cupboard while Mr Shepherd beat up Ms Geertsema.
Mr Cooper was told Ms Geertsema and Mr Shepherd had an "on and off" relationship, but Ms Geertsema had been seeing "Mickey" Rowe for three to four months before her disappearance, and the pair had recently become engaged.
He was told Mr Shepherd had been "manipulative, possessive" and emotionally abusive to his former wife Wendy Shepherd.
Ms Wilson said Ms Wendy Shepherd had told Ms Geertsema, after the pair became friends, she had left her ex-husband after he hit her when she was pregnant and later beat her leaving her with a fractured jaw and broken ribs.
The court heard Ms Geertsema had said Mr Shepherd has stabbed her when she was pregnant, but "as it wasn't that bad" she had not gone to the hospital.
The disappearance of Ms Geertsema had continued to puzzle Tasmania Police Inspectors over the years, and in 2013 they started reviewing the case under the consideration she may have fallen victim to foul play, and that her former partner was a person of interest.
Mr Cooper was told when Mr Shepherd reported once partner's disappearance two days after she went missing, he had told police she was in a "depressed state", had been drinking heavily and she was pregnant and she had told him she was pregnant and had cancer.
The court heard Ms Geertsema's GP Dr Wood noted his patient as "bright and cheerful", and that she was not pregnant nor did she have cancer.
Mr Cooper was told Mr Shepherd had said he had last seen his ex-partner on October 28 when she took off to see a friend at Parkham. He heard Mr Shepherd had taken the pair's children, Ryan and Kathryn, to school the night after she was last seen, and then discovered her car near the Devonport football oval.
He was told Mr Shepherd found the car before making the missing persons report, and that there was no evidence Ms Geertsema had drowned or left the state.
Ms Wilson said there had been evidence Mr Shepherd was been "verbally and physically" violent towards Ms Geertsema on the night of her disappearance.
The court heard Mr Shepherd had in 2015 admitted hitting Ms Geertsema and giving her a black eye to police, but denied family violence had typified the relationship.
It was yesterday revealed the court had heard Ms Geertsma had told friends and family she was planning to leave Tasmania in part because she was scared of Mr Shepherd. It heard her daughter Kathryn had been shown three plane tickets to Queensland by her mother on the day of her disappearance.
Mr Shepherd appeared in the Launceston Magistrates Court for the case management conference on Thursday and was admitted to bail as a person of interest, with the condition he not change address from his Westbury home, until the commencement of a coronial investigation starting on December 13.
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.
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