By Nick Perry
Two days after Patricia Paniani died at the hands of her violent husband, a court order protecting her from him came in the mail.
The day she was killed was their child's ninth birthday party, but there were no balloons, no cakes, no presents. As her six children slept in their Glen Innes home, Maurice Paniani grabbed his wife by the hair and repeatedly smashed her head into the footpath.
It was the sickening climax to a day of boozing in the garage.
As many as 15 people came and went during the party, which turned ugly when Paniani found his semi-naked wife in their bedroom with his cousin. But no one intervened, no one called the police, when Paniani punched his wife, held her in a headlock and threatened to break her neck.
As the woman raised her bloodied and swollen face and feebly lifted a hand for help, the crowd melted into the night.
On Wednesday, after an eight-day trial, Maurice Paniani, aged 35, was jailed for life for the murder on July 18, 1998, of 33-year-old Patricia Paniani.
His lawyer, Gary Gotlieb, had argued that Paniani beat his wife to death in a blind, jealous rage and should be convicted of manslaughter only.
"It was not your politically correct family. We are talking about a Glen Innes family. It is a tougher lifestyle ... real life here."
But the crown prosecutor, Richard Marchant, said that defence did not explain why Paniani did not even confront his cousin in the bedroom - instead saying "sweet as, cuz" - or why it was not until later that he bashed his wife to death.
Mr Marchant said Paniani was a cold, callous, violent man.
In their 10 years together, Patricia Paniani was frequently beaten - for things as minor as not getting her husband a beer quickly. She left him several times.
Each time she limped home, hoping to rebuild the relationship. Only three months before the party, Paniani was convicted of assaulting her, but was given a 12-month suspended sentence.
After the party punchbag session, Paniani calmly returned to the booze-up. But later, when his wife tried to escape through the bedroom window, he punched her and grabbed her in a headlock.
Witnesses said Paniani had threatened to break his wife's neck unless they left.
One said Paniani seemed to have calmed and they headed home, thinking the beatings were over. But they were not.
The court heard that later Paniani washed his wife and put her to bed but felt her cold flesh.
After ringing for the ambulance, he called on a friend to hide his vehicle. Then he put on a wash of bloodied clothes.
Mr Marchant said these were hardly the actions of a man who had lost his self-control.
By Nick Perry