Tue. Jul 5th, 2022

An inquest has begun in Darwin examining the death of a woman who was killed by her ex-partner, while he was out on a suspended sentence for a separate violent assault.

Roberta, whose family have requested she be referred to by her first name, made multiple phone calls to triple-0 five days before she was killed, saying she was being “threatened” by her ex-partner and that he was breaching conditions of his release by drinking alcohol.

Warning: the following story contains descriptions of a graphic nature.

The 28-year-old mother of three died from internal bleeding after she was assaulted in Katherine by Lorenzo Deegan in the early hours of June 18, 2019.

Deegan, 31, was sentenced to a decade behind bars in 2020 after pleading guilty to four counts of aggravated assault and one of negligent manslaughter.

A coronial inquest into Roberta’s death is now examining why parole officers were unaware Deegan had been attempting to track Roberta down while he was undertaking a rehabilitation program, and whether she was given adequate assistance when she called police.

A man wearing a white shirt and black tie walks outside.  He's serious.
Mr Currie told the court Roberta stayed with family in Katherine in the days before her death.(ABC News: Michael Franchi)

Court hears history of abusive behavior

In his opening remarks on Tuesday, counsel assisting Kelvin Currie detailed a history of threatening and abusive behavior toward Roberta in the lead up to her death.

Three months before her death, Deegan had been sending abusive text messages to Roberta, who was in Darwin at the time, while he was undertaking a court-ordered rehabilitation program.

Deegan was undertaking a drug and alcohol program as a condition of his release, after serving two years in prison over a separate violent assault.

After completing the program, he traveled to Darwin with permission from a parole officer to visit his children, wearing an electronic monitoring device.

Instead, he tracked down Roberta and took her back to Katherine, assaulting her twice in Darwin and once in Adelaide River.

In an incident one week before her death, Deegan punched Roberta several times until she fell to the ground, when he held a concrete block above her head and demanded to know her where she had been, or he would “hit you with a rock” .

NT Acting Coroner, Judge Elisabeth Armitage, sitting at a desk inside an office and reading papers in a file.
NT Acting Coroner Elisabeth Armitage is overseeing the inquest.(ABC News: Che Chorley)

Deegan gives evidence to the court

Appearing in court via video link, Deegan told the coroner “he was just angry” at Roberta over suspicions she had been seeing other men while he was in prison.

“I wanted her to come back home,” he said when asked about the threatening text messages he had sent to her.

Mr Currie told the court Roberta stayed with family in Katherine in the days before her death.

In a triple-0 call played to the court, Roberta said Deegan was her “partner” and said he had come to the house she was staying in and had hit her in the face.

“I just want him to go back to prison,” she told the operator.

Deegan had left before two police officers attended the scene, where Roberta asked them “to look for Lorenzo Deegan, he has been drinking, he did this to me”, while showing them her injury.

She called triple-0 two more times that night, saying “he keeps coming around and threatening” and that officers should be able to track Deegan because he was wearing an electronic monitoring device.

Road signage on the side of a highway intersection in the Northern Territory.
Roberta died from internal bleeding after she was assaulted in Katherine.(ABC News: Michael Franchi)

‘If you do not want us to come back, stop calling us’

Body worn vision of the officers’ second visit to the house was played to the court, showing a man – who was not Deegan – answering the door visibly agitated.

“If you do not want us to come back, stop calling us,” the officer can be heard saying.

“I did not call,” the man responded.

“She is,” the officer said, pointing inside the house.

“If you’re getting angry at us coming, stop calling, easy as that,” the officer said.

“I’m going to go now, stop calling, you obviously do not want us here.”

Five days later, police were called to the house where Deegan was staying, where they found Roberta dead, suffering injuries from an early morning assault.

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