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

Tara Brown's killer Lionel Patea's criminal life revealed

Lionel John Patea had a history of violence and criminal offending and had been in and out of prison in the years leading up to the brutal murder of his ex-partner Tara Brown.

Court documents obtained by the Herald reveal that he breached protection orders - meant to keep Brown safe - three times before he murdered the Kiwi-born mum-of-one. But when she sought another one before her dreadful death, police turned her down.

Brown, 24, died on September 9, 2015, after Patea ran her car off the road on a Gold Coast street and, as she lay trapped, beat her to death with a metal fire hydrant cover.

New Zealand-born Tara Brown died as a result of her injuries after her ex-boyfriend Lionel Patea drove her off the road and assaulted her with a fire-hydrant cover.
New Zealand-born Tara Brown died as a result of her injuries after her ex-boyfriend Lionel Patea drove her off the road and assaulted her with a fire-hydrant cover.

The pair had been in a relationship on and off since 2011 and had a young daughter together.

Brown had left Patea again just days before her murder.

READ MORE:
The Big Read: How Lionel Patea murdered Tara Brown
Tara Brown's killer speaks out: 'My actions are unforgivable'
'What I saw you do to Tara has horrified me to my core' - murder witness' anguish

Patea was sentenced to life in prison yesterday.

He was set to go on trial in the Brisbane Supreme Court but changed his plea at the last minute and was sentenced by Justice Debra Mullins.

After sentencing, Justice Mullins gave the Herald access to Patea's court file, including his list of previous offences.

The list reveals that Patea, a former member of the Bandidos gang, had spent time in prison in the past.

His criminal offending started in 2009 and carried on even after he was remanded in custody on the charge of murdering Brown.

May 2009:
Patea was charged with assault occasioning bodily harm and failure to appear in court. No conviction was recorded, but he was fined $300 and ordered to pay $400 compensation and, according to court documents, "not further punished".

September 2009:
Patea was charged with two counts of receiving tainted property and possessing/acquiring restricted items. Again, no conviction was recorded but he was fined $1400.

June 2010:
He escaped conviction again when he was charged with public nuisance. He was fined $200.

July 2010:
Patea was convicted on one charge of unlawful possession of suspected stolen property and fined $600.

December 2010:
His offending started to escalate and he was convicted on two counts of wilful damage, breaching an order and unauthorised dealing with shop goods. He was fined $1500 in total and put on probation for 18 months.

April 2011:
Patea was charged with unlawful use of a motor vehicle but again, escaped conviction and walked away from court with just a fine. This time he was ordered to pay $500.

September 2011:
He notched up another conviction for breaching the probation order put in place in December 2010. He was also fined another $500.

July 2012:
Now in an on-off relationship with Brown, Patea carried on offending. On July 17 he was convicted on two counts of breaching an order and one of using a carriage service to make a threat to kill. He was given a suspended sentence of one month in prison. He spent six days in custody after his arrest, which was considered time served.

July 2012:
Patea was back in court on July 30 for breaching a protection order, understood to be against Tara Brown. Her then-partner was convicted of the breach and sentenced to one month in prison. His suspended sentence handed down on July 17 was invoked and he served that concurrently.

November 2012:
Only out of prison a couple of months, Patea was back in court. He'd breached his 2010 probation order again and there were two charges of wilful damage and one of breaching a domestic violence order. He was convicted on all charges, sentenced to two months in prison and fined $750. The same day Patea was also sentenced to six months in jail for an earlier fraud. In December 2011 he was charged with dishonestly gaining a benefit and ordered to pay restitution of $1640.

November 2016:
On remand and awaiting trial for the murder of Brown, Patea offended again. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison after he admitted assaulting another inmate at the Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre in Queensland. He was originally charged with grievous bodily harm but pleaded guilty to the lesser charge when he appeared in the Brisbane Magistrates' Court. Patea threw "very hot" water at the other prisoner after the man called him a derogatory name and challenged him to a fight. Patea was convicted and sentenced to prison time that he had to serve concurrently to being on remand for Brown's murder.

Natalie Hinton hugs supporters outside court after the trial of Lionel Patea who murdered her daughter Tara Brown.
Natalie Hinton hugs supporters outside court after the trial of Lionel Patea who murdered her daughter Tara Brown.

Tara Brown's mother: Police should have done more

Brown's mother said Patea's criminal record should have raised more alarms with authorities when her daughter sought help in the days before her death.

The 24-year-old was effectively hiding from her ex-partner, staying in a safe house and with friends and family.

She was also working with her boss - she worked as an administrator at a law firm - on a custody order for her daughter.

But she wanted more help. She was worried about what Patea might do to her.

She went to the police and asked for advice on how best to handle the break-up with Patea.

Brown wanted a protection order, like she'd had in the past.

But she was turned away.

In an interview with Australia's Nine Network, Brown's mother Natalie Hinton spoke about that decision.

"Lionel Patea had a record as long as our arms," she said.

"He was known for his violent behaviour, he was known as a Bandido bikie and Tara was scared, she was hoping the police would put in place the domestic violence order."

Hinton said her daughter feared for her life, and told the police that.

Police questioned Brown why she didn't come to them straight after leaving Patea a few days earlier.

Hinton's partner Jonny Gardner said the police should have "just erred on the side of caution" and put the order in place.

"It might have just been a piece of paper as far as he [Patea] was concerned, but something's better than nothing," he said.

Hinton said she was relieved at Patea's guilty plea and that he was sentenced the same day as it meant she and her family did not have to endure a trial.

"I'm grateful for the sentencing that he received but it doesn't bring back Tara," she said.

The Tara Brown Foundation

Tara Brown's family have set up a foundation in her name to help raise awareness and support for domestic violence.

The Tara Brown Foundation for Domestic Violence Relief is directed and managed by Hinton and Gardner.

"We are Tara's family and, because we obviously loved and cared for Tara, want to make sure we do our best to stop other women and their children going through more than they need to, to gain independence from abusive and violent partners," they said on the foundation's website.

Their aim was to raise funds for women's shelters and refuges in a bid to support people in need of immediate help.

"We have close contact with these women's charities and keep a close eye on the ones that are struggling most," they said.

Find out more or donate to the Tara Brown Foundation here

- NZ Herald

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