Murdered Kiwi woman Tara Brown's legacy lives on

Natalie Hinton faces the unenviable task of telling her five-year-old grand-daughter what happened to her mum when she's old enough.

"I'm not looking forward to it. What child should have to be told that story about her Mum…. and her Dad?"

The 51-year-old is the mother of Tara Brown - a young woman who was brutally killed by her ex-partner in 2015 - and for the first time on New Zealand television she has shared her heartbreaking story with Three's The Hui.

"She was gorgeous, she was really loving. She loved everything, she loved life," Natalie says.

Tara was born at Waikato Women's Hospital in 1991, and then four years later, along with her parents and little brother Rikki, moved to the Gold Coast in 1995.

Despite moving away at a young age, Tara maintained a special connection with home.

But in 2003 their Australian dream was shattered when Natalie's husband Patrick dropped dead after a heart attack at just 38 years of age.

Tara thrived, doing well at school and on the sports field representing Queensland. Later, Tara would be involved in touch rugby, coached by her friend Corey Knight.

"Tara loved the game. If she scored a try she'd smile, if she let a try in she'd smile, if she dropped the ball she'd smile. She appreciated the game for the social aspect, playing with friends, close friends and a passion for the game," says Corey.

Lionel Patea (The Hui)
Lionel Patea (The Hui)

Tara met Lionel Patea at school, and in 2012 the couple welcomed the arrival of their daughter. They were devoted parents but theirs was a violent, abusive relationship that Tara couldn't escape.

Everything Tara did was for her daughter, and she was planning a future with Patea. She got a job at a law firm and quickly impressed with her talents, working her way up the ranks.

"It was clear that she was trying to plan a life moving forward which would revolve around her being separated and away from Lionel," says Tara's boss Jason Hall.

Tara confided in her workmates about Patea's controlling, violent behaviour.

"She'd showed me over 300 text messages in a 24-hour period - that's inhuman, and it was incessant. It was a constant attack of her person and who she was, it was no wonder her self-esteem was as it was as a result of that," says Jason.

In 2015 Tara managed to flee to a safe house, but three days later a custody order filed by Patea meant she had to come out of hiding - returning to the Gold Coast with her daughter for Father's Day.

On September 15, CCTV captured the moment Patea runs Tara off the road after a high-speed chase across the Gold Coast.

Trapped in the car wreckage, Patea runs to Tara, not to help her but to beat her 16 times with a metal fire hydrant cover. Her face was unrecognisable.

Natalie Hinton (The Hui)
Natalie Hinton (The Hui)

Natalie last saw her daughter a few days before her death, while she was on the run.

"She was very scared, you could see the terror in her eyes, she wasn't herself. She knew she had got away but she still had a doubt as to how safe she was."

In February this year, Patea appeared before court charged with Tara's murder. Set down for two weeks, Patea pleaded guilty on day one of his trial.

"I think justice was served, but not really," Natalie says. "He took maybe 60 years from my daughter and he gets a sentence of 20 years, he'll be out in his mid-40s. I think he's still got another 40 years that he could have here on this Earth."

Tara Brown with her daughter (The Hui)
Tara Brown with her daughter (The Hui)

Diane Mangan is the CEO of DV Connect, a 24-hour crisis call centre for those involved in a violent relationship. Tara sought their help and they assessed her as being at very high-risk.

But Natalie says Tara was let down by police, who initially declined the protection order against Patea.

"The information she provided us that there had been strangulation and sexual violence. These are common hallmarks, threatening to leave or preparing to leave a relationship. It's an incredibly dangerous time for women who are living in a violent relationship," Ms Mangan says.

Natalie doesn't want Tara's death to be the end of her story. She's sharing her experience with the families of other victims, who've also been killed by someone they once loved.

"We're all there for each other. We sort of understand a bit more what each other has been through, different circumstances, a little bit different but bottom-line they were all killed through domestic violence."

Natalie and her partner Jonny Gardner set up the Tara Brown Foundation, a charity to raise money for women's refuges and shelters.

"We're going to help the helpers, we're going to help domestic violence organisations that aren't Government-funded and need a bit of a prop-up, a bit of a hand," says Natalie.

Visit the Tara Brown Foundation website at www.tarabrownfoundation.com

The Hui

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