Last week, Patea pleaded guilty to murder on the first day his trial. He has been sentenced to life in prison. It seems like a fairly open and shut case, sadly reflective of the state of affairs in which men's violence against women in Australia results in the murder of at least one woman weekly. And yet, in a reprehensible letter intended for Brown's family, Patea wrote "The questions that haunts us all (is) how such a tragedy like this could ever have happened."
Patea could offer no answers except to say, "I can't clarify it for myself either."
How can a person accept responsibility for a crime in which they knowingly slaughtered not just another human being but someone with whom they shared a child and yet still wonder how a "tragedy" like this could have occurred?
This is not accepting responsibility or ownership – this is recognising that the evidence mounted against you (which included CCTV footage) is so comprehensive that a court could have no option but to find you guilty and attempting to negotiate a lower sentence by avoiding a drawn-out fight. In refusing to accept real responsibility for his actions, Patea is only further exercising the control over Tara Brown that he expressed in the days and months before he chose to kill her.Tara Brown's death was not a "tragedy" in the way Patea is attempting to frame it. This was a deliberate, horrific act of violence that formed the deadly culmination of increasing abuse perpetrated by Patea against Brown. I can tell him exactly how and why it happened – because no matter how much awareness we raise and feminist action we mount against family and intimate partner violence, there are still not enough people paying attention, and responses from law enforcement and the justice system are still not good enough.
Until we take a sustained and committed approach as a community, men like him will continue to terrorise women whose bodies, hearts and minds they think are theirs to pour their anger and entitlement into.
How could Brown's life have been spared the brutal anger of Patea? Being taken seriously by the police might have been a good start. According to Natalie Hinton, Brown's mother, Brown went to the police in the days preceding her murder to apply for a domestic violence order. It was ultimately granted, but not before officers probed her about why she hadn't come immediately following the incident (unnamed in news reports) that had led to her filing for an intervention order.
Some members of the public might ask the same thing. Others still might be tempted to judge this young woman and others like her for "getting involved" with someone like Patea in the first place. Blaming women for the abuse men inflict on them is not unusual and "why doesn't she just leave" remains a common refrain. But Brown, like so many other women murdered by men in this country, was trying to leave when Patea chased her down and beat her to death.
Rosie Batty had left her violent ex-partner and he murdered their son in an act of revenge. At only 16 years old, Anj Barker broke up with her abusive boyfriend and he retaliated by beating her so brutally that it took her five years to learn to speak again. She now lives with a permanent brain injury.
In fact, it's in the period immediately after leaving a violent relationship that women are most at risk of being killed by their ex-partners. And given abusive people don't tend to reveal that side of themselves to people they become intimate with straight away and certainly not all at once, it's plain ignorance to suggest that any of the blame should lie with the victims.
Men like Patea rely on the public's ignorance about these matters to continue perpetrating violence against their partners and family members. They rely on the normalisation of violence to slip beneath the radar. They are bolstered and protected by the false sense many people have that their friends, their colleagues, their family members couldn't possibly be guilty of this kind of behaviour.
And what this subtle acceptance of a broader view of women tells men like Lionel Patea is that their actions aren't really that bad. That they just lose their temper. That they would be able to keep it under control if she didn't provoke him so badly. If she just kept her place.
But in the end, the simple answer to Patea's pretense at confusion is that Tara Brown wasn't taken from this world and her family because of an unnamed "tragedy", nor are the circumstances around her murder unexplainable or mysterious.
Tara Brown is gone because Lionel Patea murdered her in an act of revenge for her leaving him. She is gone because a man took her life away from her rather than let her take herself away from him. Her final hours were full of terror, pain and anguish, and she leaves behind a 4-year-old daughter who will forever live with the knowledge that her father murdered her mother.
The real tragedy of it all is that this story, so heinous, so horrible and so difficult to accept, was one of more than 80 murders of women in 2015 alone, many of which were under far too similar circumstances. In 2017, the number is rising again.