Anna Leask is senior police reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

The Big Read: Tinder and tragedy - the death of Warriena Wright and the Gable Tostee trial

When Warriena Tagpuno Wright swiped her finger right across her phone screen she inadvertently sealed her fate. Wright could never could have imagined that seven days later she would be dead at the foot of an apartment tower on Australia's Gold Coast with people on both sides of the Tasman asking why and how she got there.

To the world, Warriena Tagpuno Wright will forever be the tourist who died after falling from a balcony during a Tinder date in Surfers Paradise.

But to those who knew her, the 26-year-old was much more.

"Rrie" was a daughter, sister, friend and colleague and she was ripped out of their lives far too soon.

Tonight Gable Tostee was found not guilty of her murder and of the lesser charge of manslaughter following a nine-day trial in the Brisbane Supreme Court, four of them deliberatons.

Following the verdict, the Herald looks back at Wright's life, and the tragic night the Wellington bank worker met Tostee while on holiday in Australia.

Warriena Wright and Gable Tostee posed for selfies during their Tinder date at Tostee's apartment. Photo / supplied
Warriena Wright and Gable Tostee posed for selfies during their Tinder date at Tostee's apartment. Photo / supplied

READ MORE:
Gable Tostee murder trial: Last photos of Warriena Wright before fall to death
Gable Tostee balcony murder trial: Secret recording reveals audio of Warriena Wright's final hours
Gable Tostee trial: Neighbour heard cries of 'No, no no'
Gable Tostee murder trial: Mother of Kiwi victim Warriena Wright to attend

Wright was born in Bulacan, a province in the Philippines about 35km north of Manila and one of the country's oldest areas.

Her mother Merzabeth Tagpuno moved to New Zealand when Wright was about a year old and they settled in Wellington.

Tagpuno was a deacon at the Porirua Seventh Day Adventist Church and Wright, and her younger sister Marreza, were also members.

Family photos from the girls' childhood show them smiling and happy, two sisters wearing matching dresses cuddling up to their parents.

As they got older, their relationship strengthened and they became best friends. They socialised together and photos posted on social media show their tight bond.

After Wright's death her younger sister described her as a practical joker with a soft spot for animals.

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"She was a beautiful, intelligent, caring person, who was not only my sister but also my best friend," she said.

Marreza Tagpuno travelled to Australia days after her sister died and spoke at a police press conference.

There, under the glare of television lights and cameras, she fought back tears as she told the world about Wright, who she said was a very private person who would have hated "all of this attention about her".

"Rrie was the most important person in my world," the younger sibling said.

"Most of the time we only had each other to rely on. She was a very beautiful, intelligent, caring person who not only was my sister, but she was my best friend.

"She was a funny practical joker who constantly kept me and my friends entertained and happy.

"She looked out for me and always made sure that I was okay. She was really responsible as well."

Marreza Tagpuno said Wright had been "really excited" about her trip to Australia.

They had been exchanging messages during the trip via Facebook, including on the night Wright died.

"We were always in contact," she said.

Wright had told her sister about Tostee and messaged her from his apartment during the fatal date.

"She was just messaging me that she met this guy," Marreza Tagpuno told Tostee's murder trial when she gave evidence last week.

Wright told her sister she thought Tostee looked like an actor from a television show she liked.

"I replied with thumbs up," Marreza Tagpuno said. "She sent photos, they were quite fuzzy."

The photos were selfies of Wright and Tostee taken at 9.45pm - less than five hours before she died.

"Drinking with him, woot," Wright wrote in her message.

Marreza Tagpuno told media her sister was a very private person who would have hated "all of this attention about her". Photo / supplied
Marreza Tagpuno told media her sister was a very private person who would have hated "all of this attention about her". Photo / supplied

Wright had travelled to Australia from her home in Lower Hutt on July 29, 2014. She had taken time off from her job in the credit card division at Kiwibank to attend a friend's wedding and decided to stay on afterwards for a holiday.

She'd met the friend while working at PixiFoto in Porirua, where she grew up.

On August 6, after the wedding celebrations were over, Wright checked into a motel in Surfers.

Two days later she was dead.

While in Surfers, Wright spent time with childhood friend Savana Lesa who later spoke about their last days together.

"We were hanging out, taking selfies relaxing on the beach, visiting the tallest building in Australia, cruising around and talking about the good times we had together as buddy ol pals making the best of our time together," Lesa wrote on Facebook.

Back on August 1, Wright was looking at Tinder on her cellphone. She came across a man she liked the look of and swiped her screen right - an action users take to show they like someone's profile.

It was local man Tostee. He did the same and the app alerted her to their online match.

The pair exchanged text messages - some sexual - over the next few days and eventually arranged to meet for a date on the night of August 7.

Gable Tostee, pictured in 2014, started seeing a psychiatrist in 2009 for treatment for "insecure social anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and depression". Photo / supplied
Gable Tostee, pictured in 2014, started seeing a psychiatrist in 2009 for treatment for "insecure social anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and depression". Photo / supplied

At 8.45pm street secuity cameras caught Wright meeting Tostee, then 28, outside a surf shop.

Three minutes later they were seen entering the Surfers Paradise Tavern's beer garden, presumably to buy alcohol.

They can't have been successful because they left and went into a nearby bottle shop where they purchased a six-pack of beer.

At 8.58pm Wright and Tostee were captured on camera at his apartment building, walking up the stairs and into an elevator.

Wright was inside Tostee's apartment for 321 minutes. Tostee told his trial that they drank - a claim backed up by tests that showed Wright's blood alcohol level was three times over the legal limit. He said they had sex and then things soured and he asked her to leave, locking her on the balcony when she became "psycho".

Police told the trial that after Wright consumed a large amount of Tostee's home-distilled vodka he attacked her, then locked the terrified woman outside.

Her fear of him, police claimed, was so strong that at 2.21am she climbed over his balcony in a desperate bid to escape, falling 14 storeys to her death in the process.

They charged him with murder, but a jury of six men and six women came to a verdict of not guilty after four days of deliberations.

Wright's death left her family and friends reeling.

From New Zealand her grieving mother sent a message to a friend on Facebook.

"I just can't stop crying. Help me; I don't know what to do??? I miss her so much," she wrote.

She later spoke to the Filipino Migrant News about her eldest child.

"She was a good girl, she looked after me."

Wright's friends at Kiwibank were also devastated. She had worked in the call centre for almost three years and was popular with colleagues and managers alike.

"She was well-liked and good at her job," a spokesman said.

"She was known for her love of animals and after her death the staff raised $1000 which was given to the SPCA in her name."

Days before her fatal date, Wright had visited Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo on the Sunshine Coast.

She was photographed holding a python and appeared to be laughing despite the reptile wrapping itself around her neck.

Warriena Wright's sister described her as a practical joker with a soft spot for animals. Photo / supplied
Warriena Wright's sister described her as a practical joker with a soft spot for animals. Photo / supplied

Her passion for animals pushed her to write to Parliament in 2013, appealing for tougher penalties for New Zealanders convicted of cruelty offences.

"This is something I strongly believe in, and seeing how people in New Zealand treat animals has truly made me ashamed of this country," she wrote.

"If someone murders an animal or tortures an animal I believe their punishment should be the same as if they had done this to a child."

Wellington woman Edwina Ulberg went to church with Wright when the pair were teenagers.

Her friend was "quiet but lovely", Ulberg said after learning of Wright's death.

"She was really quiet, petite, and she was really nice. I'm just pretty shocked at the moment."

Carla Ward and Wright were reportedly lifelong friends and Ward took to social media to pay tribute.

"I feel like a piece of me is gone, you were such an amazing person and I feel truly blessed to have had you in my life even though your life was cut short," she wrote.

Nick Moorcock described Wright as a "precious soul".

"One of the kindest most beautiful people I knew," he wrote.

During the trial Wright's family and friends heard, for the first time, audio recordings
Tostee made of their date in his apartment.

Wright's mother said she pleaded with the courts not to play or release the recordings, that she never wanted to hear her daughter that way.

But her pleas were rejected and the world effectively heard Wright's last words - terrified pleading for Tostee to let her go home and the word "no" repeated over and over.

"The fear in her voice says it all. She was a strong and confident woman and you changed that," Ward wrote in a Facebook post directed at Tostee after hearing the recording.

"So scared, so terrified, no one deserves to feel that way. You showed no emotion ... The truth will come out."

In a letter to the court Gable Tostee said alcohol lowered his inhibitions "far too much". Photo / News Corp
In a letter to the court Gable Tostee said alcohol lowered his inhibitions "far too much". Photo / News Corp

Gable Tostee: a history of binge drinking, anxiety and self-focus

Wright's death was not the first time Gable Tostee found himself dealing with issues involving alcohol.

After he was arrested and charged with her murder in 2014 he admitted to a decade-long struggle with booze that began when he started drinking excessively as a teenager.

In a letter to the court Tostee said alcohol lowered his inhibitions "far too much".

"I found it helped me resolve my anxieties in interacting with others by improving my confidence," he wrote.

"Without alcohol I am quite reserved and less talkative. I find that I am slow to think and do not feel as witty when I am sober."

Following his arrest, Tostee was granted bail on the conditions that he sought help at a rehabilitation clinic and stayed off social media.

In court he said he wanted to address his binge drinking problem so he could become a "functioning and productive member of society".

It was also revealed that Tostee had been seeing a psychiatrist since 2009 for treatment for "insecure social anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and depression".

He also has a history of attention deficit disorder.

The judge noted that Tostee "was incredibly focused on himself".

Timeline to a tragedy

July 29, 2014: Warriena Wright travels from Wellington to the Gold Coast for a friend's wedding

August 1: Wright connects with Gable Tostee on dating app Tinder

August 6: Wright checks into Gold Coast motel, spends time with her friend

August 7: Wright and Tostee meet for a date in Surfers Paradise

August 8: After having sex and arguing with Tostee, Wright dies after falling from his 14th floor balcony

August 15: Tostee charged with murdering Wright

October 20, 2016: Following a trial in the Brisbane Supreme Court, Tostee is found not guity of murder or the lesser alternative charge of manslaughter.

- NZ Herald

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