A coroner has highlighted red flags that can warn women when they are at risk of being injured or killed by their partners.
Wellington coroner Mary-Anne Borrowdale has raised awareness of warning signs of violence through her recent report on the deaths of Ngaire McKenzie and Murray Daley.
The coroner found that Daley, 58, had killed Ngaire McKenzie, 61, and her dog at her Hawke’s Bay home in June 2018. He then killed himself.
McKenzie – who had two adult daughters – was described by people who knew her as kind, generous and inclined to see past others’ faults.
The coroner made it clear in the report that neither the victim nor any of the people around her were responsible for what happened, and it was entirely Daley’s responsibility.
Subtle signs of abuse in the relationship indicated danger, the report said.
It described Daley’s behaviour as controlling and manipulative after he met McKenzie through an online dating site in 2014 and moved into her home.
Daley’s controlling behaviour included intimidation, threats to kill, intense jealousy, possessiveness, and stalking.
The report found Daley was “needy, self-absorbed, repetitive and badgering, exacting and hectoring in his demands for response and reassurance, and jealous of Ms McKenzie’s relationships with others – including her pets”.
“These accounts of Mr Daley’s possessive and controlling attitude towards Ms McKenzie are borne out by the direct evidence that was available to me, particularly from the couple’s text messages,” the coroner said.
McKenzie tried to end the relationship on numerous occasions, but Daley wooed her back with gifts, apologies and threats to kill himself, the report said.
The victim and her family and friends did not seem to know Daley had previously been violent to women who were in close relationships with him.
Police had records of Daley being involved in domestic violence incidents in 1994 and 2006, but there was no police involvement in his relationship with McKenzie before her murder.
National Network of Family Violence Services/ Te Kupenga Whakaoti Mahi Patunga chief executive Merran Lawler said family violence was not always as obvious as black eyes and bruises.
Merran Lawler says men’s abuse of women can take subtle forms, before escalating into severe violence.
“It is often played out in the form of behaviours where any single instance may seem so minor or trivial that some people would not even consider them ‘violent’,” Lawler said.
“Yet when amassed together, those behaviours show an escalating pattern of intimidation and control of a victim by the abuser.”
Police needed to be better trained to detect subtle abusive behaviours in domestic violence, Lawler said.
The coroner’s report was sobering reading because it demonstrated how quickly an abuser’s ‘red flags’ of violence could escalate to murder.
While women needed to be aware of warning signs, they were not responsible for violence, Lawler noted.
“It remains a fundamental concern that we continue to expect women, their friends and family to be alert to those red flags rather than insisting men, whose behaviour gives rise to the red flags, recognise their violence and stop – or get help to stop,” she said.
“The coroner was very keen to point this out: that neither the victim nor any of the people around her are responsible for what happened to her – that is entirely the responsibility of the man who murdered her.”