Murder accused had history of assaulting former partner, court hears

A man accused of bashing his girlfriend to death in Sydney had a history of assaulting another female partner and was once seen karate-kicking her in the head, a jury has heard.

Onitolosi Etuini Atiai Latu, 30, has pleaded not guilty to the murder of 26-year-old Rhonda Baker, who suffered head injuries in a Liverpool apartment block and later died in August 2016.

In NSW's Supreme Court on Monday, Latu's ex-girlfriend Hailey Bingley - who he dated during a separation with Ms Baker - testified that he threw a wine glass at her chest and knocked her out with a closed fist in July 2013.

Crown prosecutor Guy Newton asked: "You told Mr Latu you would not get back together with him until he received help for his anger issues?" "Yes," Ms Bingley replied.

 

Onitolosi Latu had a history of assaulting another female partner.
Onitolosi Latu had a history of assaulting another female partner.

 

Rhonda Baker. Picture: Instagram
Rhonda Baker. Picture: Instagram

"I just said no, I can't have him back living with me anymore. I couldn't do it." Her friend, Melissa Pinto, gave evidence that Latu "was bouncing, like going to pounce" when Ms Bingley said "no" then leapt onto a dining table, punched his partner in the head, threw her to the floor and hit and kicked her.

Ms Pinto said she saw Latu on an earlier occasion "karate kick" Ms Bingley in the head because she hadn't bought coathangers and "his clothes were not hung", and he'd also been arguing about her past relationship.

"He was quite angry and he kind of just did a big kick in the air," Ms Pinto said, sobbing throughout her evidence.

"From what I recall, he pulled her hair, dragging her on the ground … he was in a rage.

"She just kept begging him to stop. I was trying to (stop him) but he was a big man."

 

Rhonda Baker was “good at hiding bruises with makeup”. Picture: Supplied
Rhonda Baker was “good at hiding bruises with makeup”. Picture: Supplied

 

Ms Baker's high school friend Jahleen Gray told the court she was an "independent" and "happy" woman when separated from Latu, but when they got back together he controlled her money, phone and the use of her car.

Ms Gray said her own partner worked with Ms Baker at Dial A Dump Industries for a few months in 2016 and would call her whenever he saw her friend at work with injuries.

She said Ms Baker was "really good" at covering her bruises with makeup and would "contour" around swelling.

"I wanted her to leave, to get away from it. She said she couldn't leave him (Latu) unless she knew he was going to jail, away for a very long time," Ms Gray said.

"She said that he would find her and he would hurt her."

His barrister, Gregory Woods QC, has argued while Latu "was a less-than-perfect partner" he didn't kill Ms Baker.

The trial before Justice Julia Lonergan continues.



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