Australia: Nicola Stephens had her demons, but one month on there are still no answers about her death - PressFrom - Australia
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AustraliaNicola Stephens had her demons, but one month on there are still no answers about her death

07:45  13 january  2019
07:45  13 january  2019 Source:   theage.com.au

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© Supplied Mother-of-two Nicola Stephens was found dead on December 15, 2018. Almost a month after the suspicious death of a Melbourne mother in a busy South Melbourne apartment block, her friends and family are still waiting for answers about how she died.

Ozzy Osbourne has pulled out of next month ’ s Download Festival - Music Reads - Double J. abc.net.au - By Dan Condon. Nicola Stephens had her demons , but one month on there are still no answers about her death . theage.com.au - Rachael Dexter.

Nicola Stephens had her demons, but one month on there are still no answers about her death© Supplied Mother-of-two Nicola Stephens was found dead on December 15, 2018.

Almost a month after the suspicious death of a Melbourne mother in a busy South Melbourne apartment block, her friends and family are still waiting for answers about how she  died.

Paramedics were called to the building on Park Street on December 15 where they found the body of 46-year-old mother-of-two Nicola Stephens on the 24th floor.

Hours earlier, she had banged on a neighbour's door screaming "someone wants to stab me" and then called police.

Photos seen by The Age show blood on the floor outside outside apartment 242, along with bouquets of flowers the day after Ms Stephens' death.

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The same day, SES volunteers and homicide detectives were seen pulling a long kitchen knife from a bush just metres from one of the entrances to the Park Towers housing commission flats.

Nicola Stephens had her demons, but one month on there are still no answers about her death© Supplied Nicola Stephens.

Four men aged 30, 68, 41 and 50, all from South Melbourne, were interviewed by police immediately after the discovery of Ms Stephens’ body, but were released within 24 hours.

Four weeks later, no one has been charged over Ms Stephens' death.

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Asked about the homicide investigation, police said there were no updates and it was ongoing.

Remembering 'Nicky'

Friends and family gathered in Carrum Downs early in January for a quiet funeral to say goodbye to Ms Stephens, who they remembered as woman with a "mad love for horses".

Paul Robertson, Ms Stephens' former partner, met her when she was 12 and he was 14, in a horse paddock in Scoresby. It was not long after her family had moved to Australia from England.

Nicola Stephens had her demons, but one month on there are still no answers about her death© Rachael Dexter Park Towers housing commission flats in South Melbourne.

"She helped out at a local riding school giving pony rides, and I had horses too," Mr Robertson said.

"I don't think they paid her, but she just got to hang out and be around the horses which she loved.

"We’ve been best friends ever since," Mr Robertson said.

He and Ms Stephens had been separated for more than a decade, but they had stayed in touch. He last had contact with her three days before she died.

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Mr Robertson said Ms Stephens was the kind of person who would give someone the shirt off her back.

At 16 she began work as a cadet at the Broadmeadows Army Barracks, where she remained for at least four years as a movements clerk, with the responsibility of organising transport and logistics for army vehicles.

Nicola Stephens had her demons, but one month on there are still no answers about her death© Supplied Nicola Stephens in her younger years. She worked as a strapper across Victoria. But horses were always Ms Stephens' true calling, and she returned to them often.

After leaving the army she worked hard as a strapper – a job involving 3am wake-ups to exercise race horses – at stables around Victoria and eventually Melbourne's major tracks at Flemington and Caulfield.

Ms Stephens' life, however, was marred by alcoholism. It was a demon she was trying hard to wrangle in the lead up to her death.

“Alcohol had been a problem for her pretty much since she got out of the army,” Mr Robertson said.

But there were periods of hope throughout her struggle with addiction. In the mid 2000s, Ms Stephens met Brian Cox – the now-disgraced founder of the Melbourne Alcohol Recovery Centre (MARC) – at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

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Mr Robertson said she eventually worked with Mr Cox at the recovery centre. Using her knack for logistics and office skills, Mr Robertson says she "pretty much ran the business".

It was a period of stability in Ms Stephens' life, and she even featured in a 2009 SBS documentary series about Mr Cox's work, called The Last Chance Saloon.

"She was one of the stars," Mr Robertson laughs.

"My phone was ringing out with people saying, 'Is that Nicky on the TV?'"

Ms Stephens' sobriety ebbed and flowed throughout her life, as alcohol pulled her from her work, family and horses.

“I’ve given many people a go – horses will bring out the best in you,” said Saab Hasan, a horse trainer who runs stables at Flemington racecourse. “I wanted to give her a chance to get on the straight and narrow.”

Ms Stephens worked for Mr Hasan between 2012 and 2014.  He described her as a “beautiful girl”, but said her drinking eventually cost her the job at the stables.

The last few months of Ms Stephens' life were peppered with arrests, court appearances and eventually a short stint in a Victorian women's prison for breach of an apprehended violence order.

Mr Robertson spoke to her the night before she was to go to prison, in early October, and said she was optimistic about getting sober while inside.

“She wasn’t too fussed about going in,” he said. “She was meant to have a job lined up at a local stables in Wangaratta for when she got out.”

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But it is not known if she ever made it to Wangaratta to take up the job.

Three weeks after her release, Ms Stephens was dead.

Troubled towers

Her death came at the beginning of a violent week at Park Towers, where she had lived.

The suspicious death highlighted ongoing security concerns of residents at Park Towers.

South Melbourne police station is 120 metres from the 1960s-era public housing block, and its officers are in regular attendance.

In June last year The Age revealed that police were called to the high-rise estate more than once a day, on average.

Ms Stephens' death, a non-fatal stabbing and a non-fatal shooting all occurred a week after the introduction of 24-hour security, raising questions from residents about what more could be done to make it safe.

After the violent week, residents received a letter from the Department of Health and Human Servicesand Victoria Police promising an increase in police patrols over the holiday period.

The letter also promised the housing department would work early this year to "build support and strengthen the Park Towers community".

Housing minister Richard Wynne said that "tenant engagement will start shortly and will include community safety audits, social activities and forums".

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