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Accused had ‘gaping hole’ near her eye

Saturday, 10th February, 2018

By Michael Murphy

A woman accused of murdering her partner remained in jail for almost a week without medical attention despite shocking injuries to her face, the Supreme Court heard yesterday.

Jonda Rhani Stephen, 50, is accused of murdering Christopher David Tiffin at her Chloride Street home on October 5, 2015. She also faces a lesser charge of manslaughter.

She has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Her barrister told the court this week that her client acted in self-defence.

More of Ms Stephen’s former work colleagues gave evidence yesterday in day three of the trial at the Broken Hill Court House.

Ms Stephen is a former records manager at the hospital.

One of her former employees yesterday described her as a “mother-type”, “bubbly”, “caring” and “funny”, but she noticed Ms Stephen became “edgy” and lost her confidence in the months leading up to October 5.

Ms Stephen began to wear long-sleeved clothes, covered bruises on her face with make-up, and wore sunglasses inside the building at work, the woman said.

She told the court she became “alarmed” and “concerned” about the welfare of Ms Stephen, and burst into tears when she admitted she did not share her concerns with her former boss.

She told the court that when she saw police tape around Ms Stephen’s house on the night of October 5, 2015, she feared the worst.

“I thought she was dead ... because I had worried she was in a violent situation,” the woman said.

The next day she heard that Ms Stephen was in custody.

“I felt so desperate to see her, I went to the police station and they would not let me,” she said.

The first available time she could see Ms Stephen was on the Sunday at the local jail, six days after.

She took her mother, a nurse, with her to the jail.

She told the court that Ms Stephen had lots of bruising and swelling on her face, and a “gaping hole” near her eye.

She said her mother asked Ms Stephen if she had received any medical attention, and that Ms Stephen had said “no”.

Another woman who worked with Ms Stephen in the records department at the hospital gave evidence yesterday.

She said her former boss was “kind” and “truthful” - “what you saw is what you got”.

“She was very loving, always hugging you, always kissing you.”

The woman was on holidays when she got a phone call about the October 5 incident.

“I said oh no, he’s killed her,” the woman told the court.

“I just had a feeling he’d killed her.”

Another work colleague, a project manager at the hospital, said he too noticed a change in Ms Stephen in the months leading up to October 5 - the bruises covered with make-up, wearing of sun glasses inside at work.

When he heard that Ms Stephen was in police custody, he tried to gain access to her to see if she was all right.

He visited her in jail five days later.

He told the court he was “horrified” by her injuries - the swelling and bruising to her face.

A forensic expert entered the witness box yesterday afternoon and began to describe the crime scene.

Senior Constable Liam Edwards told the court he took photographs of Mr Tiffin’s body at the hospital on the night of his death.

He also photographed blood stains on the footpath outside of the house in Chloride Street, on the front veranda, in a back living room, and in the bathroom.

Other items of note in the back living room included a wooden-handled mallet, a blood-stained Breville clothes iron that had parts broken off it, and a blood-stained laptop computer.

The police officer also photographed a blue-handled knife in the kitchen.

The trial continues on Monday.

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