Australia A.K. and her baby were allegedly killed in a murder-suicide near Alice Springs. Her family wants answers

00:51  01 august  2022
00:51  01 august  2022 Source:   abc.net.au

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A.K. and her baby, who were killed allegedly by her partner in a murder-suicide.  (Supplied) © Provided by ABC NEWS A.K. and her baby, who were killed allegedly by her partner in a murder-suicide.  (Supplied)

A.K. was full of life, kind hearted, and an amazing mother.

That's how her heartbroken sisters remember the 30-year-old mother, who was killed allegedly by her partner last month, along with her 15-week-old baby, in Central Australia, north of Alice Springs.

"We loved her and we are going to miss her," the sisters said.

Her family has given the ABC permission to share her initials and their images, in the hope that she is remembered as "more than a statistic", and to push for systemic change.

A.K's partner's body and a gun were also found at the scene, and Northern Territory Police has confirmed they are investigating the episode as a murder-suicide.

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Speaking out for the first time since her death, A.K.'s family said they're frustrated at the lack of information that has been made available to them by police.

Close in age, her three sisters said the four of them "were pretty much always together" and "very close".

Her younger sister, Michelle, has taken custody of A.K's two surviving young children.

She said her sister was "extremely funny" and a dedicated mum, "always taking the kids on little adventures".

Wendy, A.K.'s adoptive mother, remembered her as "very funny".

"She never had a serious side and if she tried to be serious, she'd just got a look at you, and she'd burst into laughter or something … she was my scatterbrain," she said.

"It's a tragedy. It's devastating. And everyone's at a loss for words."

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'We still have lots of questions'

More than two weeks on from her death, Northern Territory Police has still not responded to a number of detailed questions asked by the ABC about the incident, and A.K.'s family said they don't know much more than the public.

Michelle said she had first heard about what had happened through the rumour mill, as friends and family called her to ask "if it was true".

Detectives visited her that night and said "there was an incident that happened involving my sister and her partner," but Michelle said police did not give her much more information than that.

In the two weeks since, their bodies have been released to the family, but police information has been thin on the ground.

A.K.'s little sister, Mouse, said the family had not been told if the gun was registered, if there were witnesses to the event or other key details about their sister's alleged murder.

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The broad strokes of the situation were only clarified early last week by the Police Minister, Kate Worden, who said the gun had been found in the possession of the man, revealing that he was the alleged perpetrator of the violence.

Police took several more days to confirm they were investigating the deaths as a murder-suicide and that the pair were in a domestic relationship.

NT Police has only addressed the media once about the incident that left three people dead, and have declined to take any public questions.

Police 'failed at their jobs', family claims

According to court documents obtained by the ABC, A.K.'s partner was sentenced in the Northern Territory Supreme Court earlier this year, after he pleaded guilty to unlawfully causing harm to a previous partner.

He was given a nine month suspended sentence for the incident, which he would need to carry out if he committed another offence in the following two years.

A.K.'s family want to know how it was possible that his history of domestic violence did not alert authorities to the fact that she might have been in trouble, given they were allegedly called out to their property several times, over domestic incidents.

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Mouse said the man was "really controlling," and showed signs of coercive control.

"When we would go and sit down with her, he had to be sitting right there," she said.

Mouse said she had also witnessed him be physically violent with A.K., and one time her sister's partner allegedly hit her.

"When I rang the police they refused to take my statement and they didn't come and see me the next day," she said.

After the alleged incident, Mouse said that A.K. had called police who attended the house, however she said they again didn't take a statement.

"If the police actually did take it seriously, when he hit me, he would be in jail, because he was on probation, and she and the baby would still be here," she said.

Mouse said she felt that the police had "failed at their jobs", because she claims they allegedly made A.K. feel like the perpetrator, when she called for help.

This experience is common for women across Australia and is a significant issue for Indigenous women such as A.K.

A 2017 Queensland analysis of 27 domestic homicides, found that almost half the women who were killed by their partner had previously been identified by police as the perpetrator on a protection order.

Nearly all of the Aboriginal women killed by their partners had been recorded by police as both perpetrators and victims.

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NT Police said in a statement: "as with all homicide investigations, a review of all the circumstances surrounding the deaths includes assessment of any reported prior family violence incidents of both the deceased, and a review of the relationship history of all the parties involved".

Police said they "appreciate there is a lot of public interest, however police must maintain the integrity of the investigation and will not comment on the details".

'Why is this extreme act of violence being kept quiet?'

Peta-Lee Cole-Manolis has 12 years experience working on the front line of child protection and domestic and family violence.

She's been supporting A.K.'s family since her alleged murder, and said she was concerned by the lack of public information being made available by police.

"Why is this extreme act of violence being kept quiet?"

"Where is that information, why isn't it being made available and why isn't strong, clear language being used that would hold the perpetrator to account?"

"It's a missed opportunity to shine a light on this … and support other women experiencing similar power and control to understand they are at risk," she said.

Ms Cole - Manolis claimed it was clear that A.K. was at risk of being murdered based on the standard assessment tool used across Central Australia.

"I just don't know whether or not we are equipped, or we are spending enough time on doing these really important assessments and education and support to women experiencing violence and men who are perpetrating violence," she said.

Larissa Ellis, chief executive of Women's Safety Services of Central Australia, also called on police to release as much information as possible about what had happened because without information, the "horrific" incident of domestic violence was going unremarked by the nation.

"We've had at least five deaths over the last 18 months of women and children in the Northern Territory; none of them have really made national coverage, none of them have created an outcry," she said.

The Northern Territory has the highest rates of domestic violence in country which advocates attribute to the ongoing effects of colonisation and the legacy of inter-generational trauma.

Ms Ellis said the Northern Territory "is beyond crisis".

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