‘She said that he would hurt her’
A jury has found a man guilty of the bashing murder of his girlfriend in a Sydney apartment block.
Onitolosi Latu, 30, had denied murdering 26-year-old Rhonda Baker, who suffered head injuries in Liverpool and died in hospital on August 7, 2016.
Latu's three-and-a-half week NSW Supreme Court trial heard evidence he told police Ms Baker had been "jumped" when he wasn't "present", and told a paramedic she had a seizure while he was asking her what happened.
But the jury rejected this, deliberating for less than 24 hours before returning its verdict of guilty on Monday afternoon.
Human blood was found throughout Ms Baker's car, which was parked beneath the unit at the time of her death.
The victim was unconscious, not breathing and had no pulse when help arrived after Latu made a triple-zero call at 4.24am, one paramedic testified. Ms Baker had several facial fractures, broken ribs, a bleeding nose and various other injuries.
The jury was shown emails allegedly exchanged between Latu and Ms Baker, which the Crown alleged indicated she was living in fear of her partner and his threats to "cave" her head in.
They heard evidence the couple had an on-again, off-again relationship and Ms Baker regularly took sick days from work but would return with facial bruises and swelling.
One colleague testified she told Ms Baker to use the excuse she had been in a car accident in an attempt to help her and mask her shame.
Another friend told the court that Ms Baker had said she couldn't leave her boyfriend "unless she knew he was going to jail, away for a very long time".
"She said that he would find her and he would hurt her," high school friend Jahleen Gray said.
The jury also heard evidence Latu had been violent towards another female partner and was once seen karate-kicking her in the face.
Defence barrister, Gregory Woods QC, had argued his client "was a less-than-perfect partner" but didn't murder Ms Baker.
Latu is due to face a sentence hearing on March 8, 2019.