This is how Jess Setu looks this week. But about a year ago it was a different story - she was brutally attacked by her estranged husband Lealofi Setu with a piece of wood in what has been described as a shocking case of domestic violence. Jess told Andrew King her story.

Warning: Graphic Content

3am, Friday, May 20, 2016, Jess Setu is sound asleep, her 4-year-old daughter tucked up beside her, and her other two daughters aged 12 and 10 in other rooms.

Outside her Burnside home, her angry estranged husband and father of her children, Lealofi Setu, 40, is about to enter the house with a piece of wood.

The goal: To do as much damage to Jess, 32, as he possibly can.

Jess Setu said what saved her from the brutal attack was her children throwing their bodies over her. Photo / Martin Hunter, Christchurch Star
Jess Setu said what saved her from the brutal attack was her children throwing their bodies over her. Photo / Martin Hunter, Christchurch Star

He slips in the back door, possibly with a key, turns off lights left on so the children can see their way to the bathroom, and heads straight to Jess' bedroom.


The attack is brutal and savage. Setu is in a rage.

"I remember just being smacked really hard and I just started screaming," she told the Christchurch Star this week after Setu was sentenced to five years jail for the attack on Monday.

Jess said initially she had no idea of who her attacker was. All she could think about was getting the assailant out of the house, away from her children.

"All I thought was, s**t, my youngest is in bed with me, I have to get out of here. I was aiming to get to that front door . . . because I knew, if I could get there, this person is going to follow me, they will be away from my kids, and I will be on the street where people can hear me," she said.

But she couldn't get up because the blows kept raining down. Miraculously, her 4-year-old was not struck in the flurry of blows, and even slept through the ordeal.

The attack only stopped when her two other daughters ran into the bedroom, the 12-year-old ending up across a bleeding Jess as she tried to push Setu away.

Her 10-year-old pleaded for the attack to stop. It was then the 10-year-old realised who the attacker was - her father.

Jess thinks it was her 10-year-old's pleas that stopped the attack. Setu fled.

It was only when the 12-year-old rang for an ambulance moments later, that Jess became aware the attacker was Setu.

Said Jess: "I said grab mummy's phone I need to go to the hospital, I need to call your dad,"

Her 10-year-old replied: "Mum, it was dad."

Jess' face was covered in blood, so she took a selfie to see how bad it was.

The signs that something was not right with Setu had emerged 15 hours earlier.

Jess was at netball with her children when Setu turned up and tried to kiss her.

They had been separated for about seven months after Jess had left him. They had shared custody of the children.

Setu left the netball after she rebuffed him.

"I said: 'No, we have split up. I don't feel the same way about you anymore. We are over'."

Setu then tried to kiss her again. Jess told him to back-off and he left in a "big huff and puff".

A short time later, Setu phoned Jess with an ominous threat: "Your beauty is only going to last so long and I can take it from you," Jess said he told her.

​Setu called her again after her rugby training demanding to know where she was.

"He rings me and says where the f**k are you, you're not at home, your f**king dog is out again.

"I asked how did he get out because he was locked inside the house, the only way he could get out is if someone let him out.

"He said where the f**k are you, the kids have school in the morning.

"I said I know they have school in the morning, leave us alone."

The children were with Jess.

Rex, her german shepherd, disappeared that night and hasn't been seen since. She has her theories on what happened to him.

Jess believes she would have died in the attack if her children had not intervened.

She had suffered numerous gashes to her face, most of which were down to the bone.

Doctors had to pull splinters out of her skull, her left eye was swollen shut and her left eyebrow was split in two. She also had several defensive wounds on her arms and her right hand where she had tried to block the blows being rained down on her.

She spent a week in hospital.

Jess' face is scarred which troubles her considerably.

"It is hard because I look in the mirror and I see scars every day. And every time I see the scars, I see him," she said breaking down into tears.

"I don't want to see him, but I do and there is nothing I can do about it.

"People say you can hardly notice them, but I can. He has succeeded in making me ugly as such, because for the past year, I have felt that and that is what he wanted. He wanted to destroy me as a person.

"That's what he has left me with, he has left me with scars."

Jess, who is Australian, met Setu in Brisbane at a church programme.

"We started messaging and fell in love. It wasn't the whole whirlwind romance with sparks flying. We were compatible at the time and now here we are," she said.

They married in November 2003 and moved to Christchurch in April 2013 for work. Setu was a painter/plasterer.

They separated in October 2015 and were divorced last month - while Setu was in custody awaiting sentence.

She had taken out a protection order against him in January 2016.

She doesn't regret meeting or marrying him because she has "three beautiful children" out of it.

Jess has decided to go public about her ordeal to show the public how brutal domestic violence can be and the tragedy it leaves behind.

"I'll be a voice that people will eventually want to tell to shut up," she said of her determination to keep domestic violence in the public eye.

"Don't be scared about going to the police and asking for help . . . they are amazing. You have amazing police officers here," she said.

Constable Natalie Deuchrass was one of the first officers to see Jess in the hospital and said she was amazed she was still alive.

"One more hit and he would have killed her, I think," she said.

Now Jess just wants to move on with her life, raise her kids and give them the childhood they deserve.

"I have said to them it is okay to love dad, to want to spend time with dad," she said.

"The youngest one will forget it because she is too little to remember, but the others have good memories with him and now they are torn," she said.

On Monday, Lealofi Setu was sentenced in the district court to five years jail for wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, contravening a protection order, and aggravated burglary.

Where to get help:
If it is an emergency and you or someone you know is at risk, call 111.
Women's Refuge: 0800 733 843
Victim Support: 0800 842 846
Lifeline: (09) 522 2999
Family Violence Info Line: 0800 456 450