The terrifying life and death of Olivia Tung
If we are to end domestic violence, the legal system needs to play its part by coming down harder on perpetrators. Until this happens, you will be reading many more stories about dead women like Olivia Tung, writes journalist SHERELE MOODY.
WHY are our courts still handing domestic violence killers lenient sentences?
The case of Olivia Tung is a prime example of how the justice system continues to fail dead women – with her killer copping a minimum 8.8 years in jail, then having the gall to whine the term was “manifestly excessive” and to ask for a shorter stay behind bars.
Olivia’s final months on earth were miserable, painful and terrifying.
The 41-year-old’s partner Nathan Rodney O’Malley repeatedly bashed and abused her, with those close to Olivia later telling police they often saw her covered in bruises.
Olivia was a tiny woman compared to her much larger, heavily-built partner.
When she met O’Malley around September 2014, she weighed about 57kg.
By March of 2016, she was 45kg and her body was so fragile and worn down that it struggled to heal the fractures to her ribs, sternum and lower back caused by O’Malley during his violent outbursts.
O’Malley not only treated Olivia as a punching and kicking bag – he had form for brutal beatdowns on other women.
In February 2015, the 37-year-old attacked his former partner while he was on a domestic violence order that should have kept him away from this victim.
Court papers show O’Malley rocked up to her house uninvited, punched her around the head for no reason and destroyed her phone.
He was convicted of multiple charges for that assault – and a month later was charged yet again for another breach of a domestic violence order.
Four months later O’Malley and Olivia fled Sydney to build a new live in the Brisbane suburb of Eight Mile Plains.
“He moved to Queensland, he said, to get away from his former partner,” court documents reveal.
“In doing so he chose to walk away from his parenting responsibilities to his two sons, who would have been aged seven and 10 at that time.”
In Queensland, the couple eked out an existence on Centrelink payments while holed up in the small caravan they called home.
Olivia was often down at the local Cash Converters pawning items to make ends meet. She never collected her valuables or paid the debts on them.
One week after selling her phone, Olivia’s life ended very much how she had lived the past 18 months – surrounded by brutal violence and devoid of kindness.
On March 17, 2016, O’Malley repeatedly kicked and stomped on Olivia’s slight body.
He fractured her nose and seven ribs, lacerated her liver and damaged her right kidney and adrenal gland.
As she lay on the caravan’s cold floor half naked and bleeding internally, O’Malley used his mobile phone to google “morphine nurofen”, “Can you take Ibuprofen and morphine together” and “can I use asthma machine if I have broken ribs”.
At some point he gave Olivia two tablespoons of morphine plus Panadol, ibuprofen and Nurofen, in what he later told police was his attempt to treat his partner’s injuries.
The morphine was left over from Olivia’s late husband’s prescription for cancer treatment.
O’Malley called paramedics about 90 minutes after he kicked and stomped on Olivia.
The ambulance officers walked into the van to find the tiny frail woman naked from the waste down and O’Malley apparently trying to revive her with CPR.
He appeared “distressed”, telling them Olivia had fallen off the toilet and that this – and a fall the previous evening in the shower – had caused her injuries.
Olivia was taken to Princess Alexandra Hospital. She died the following morning.
O’Malley insisted on telling police that Olivia was prone to clumsiness and that she asked him to give her morphine for the pain after she fell over.
He was eventually charged with Olivia’s murder but he agreed to plead to the downgraded charge of manslaughter on August 20, 2018.
He has never revealed why he bashed Olivia, but he repeatedly insisted she caused her own injuries and that he made every effort to save her life.
There was no shying away from the truth when O’Malley faced Queensland Supreme Court Justice David Boddice for sentencing.
Justice Boddice slammed the killer for his brutal treatment of Olivia and for his shameless attempts to thwart shouldering the blame for her death.
Justice Boddice outlined how O’Malley intended to cause Olivia serious harm by kneeing her in the stomach and in her back while she was standing, bringing her to the ground where his knee impacted her back.
“Your conduct on that day, including your conduct subsequently when you told lies to the police and sought to blame the injuries on your partner’s own actions, is consistent with a belief that you have an entitlement to treat your partner as you see fit, and that includes with a total lack of dignity and respect,” Justice Boddice told him.
“I accept you exhibited remorse following your actions. However, I do not accept that remorse was directed towards your partner.
“The remorse was for the position you found yourself in and you used every endeavour to try and ensure you were not held accountable for your actions.”
Justice Boddice noted O’Malley had abused Olivia previously.
“This was not the first occasion on which you had inflicted violence on your partner,” Justice Boddice told O’Malley during the sentencing.
“In my view your conduct properly is to be described as involving a brutal, unprovoked attack on a slight, vulnerable woman.
“Your actions then demonstrated a complete disregard for her; it also indicated a lack of remorse.”
In Queensland, judges can sentence people on manslaughter charges to a maximum of life in prison, but O’Malley’s sentence fell far short of this.
It was even less than the 14 years asked for by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
In the end, O’Malley copped 11 years in prison and can apply for parole after serving 80 per cent of that term – in other words he could be out after 8.8 years.
His hard-luck story of growing up in a dysfunctional household and having suffered depression and other mental health problems played a part in the low sentence as did his decision to plead guilty and save the state the cost of a trial.
To add insult to injury, O’Malley considered his sentence “manifestly excessive” and appealed, claiming Justice Boddice erred in finding that his post-offence conduct demonstrated a complete disregard for Olivia and that he did not show remorse or concern for the deceased.
The Queensland Court of Appeal heard O’Malley’s submissions in March of this year and released its decision just under four months later on June 28.
The Court of Appeal said the sentence was appropriate and that it would stand.
O’Malley is a violent man who focuses his brutality on vulnerable women.
His ongoing acts of domestic violence against Olivia should have been enough to put this man behind bars for 20-25 years.
Instead, in a few years he will most likely leave prison to start a new life – a new life that may lead to new relationships and the very high possibility of new victims.
If Australia is to end domestic violence, the legal system needs to play its part and that means coming down harder on perpetrators like O’Malley.
Until this happens, you will be reading many more stories about dead women like Olivia Tung.
*For 24-hour domestic violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732.
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