Aria has been forced to grow up without her mum's love. Source: Kidspot
Aria has been forced to grow up without her mum's love. Source: Kidspot

Tara Brown's mum yet to tell granddaughter about her murder

All Aria remembers is police officers showing up at her preschool.

Even now, four years later, all the six-year-old girl has been told is that her mum Tara was killed in a car accident.

Her grandmother Natalie can't bear to tell the little girl the brutal truth: her mum was run off the road and savagely beaten to death by Aria's father Lionel Patea in Queensland in 2015.

"I don't have words to describe it," the 53-year-old tells Kidspot.

"Tara's injuries were so horrific that I would have hated Aria to see her mother in that way.

"And she still doesn't know the real story.

"The worst is yet to come - having to tell it to her - reliving it and dealing with it all over again."

Natalie can't remember a time she wasn't trying to protect Tara from Patea's violent abuse.

She did everything possible to try to get Tara and Aria to safety - giving her daughter money when her husband took control of their finances, driving her to the police station to report beatings and sexual assaults.

But it never seemed enough.

"He was extremely manipulative, very cunning," she says.

"She would go back for the promises he made.

"He would also make threats against her family - that's another reason why she didn't leave, she was protecting us.

"It was extremely hard to watch."

But knowing about Tara's abuse did nothing to prepare Natalie for the moment Patea killed her.

"I was totally in disbelief," she says.

"I always had hope she would be OK.

"But that hope was finally ripped from me when they told me her injuries weren't survivable."

The brutal nature of her daughter's injuries is still something that Natalie finds herself unable to accept.

"I still can't fathom it," she says.

"I don't understand how that's meant to be love."

Listening to the Triple 0 recording played at Patea's trial for Tara's murder - it's easy to see what Natalie means.

Tara "can be heard screaming for help, screaming that he is going to stab her, yelling out the best she could," as Crown prosecutor Carl Heaton QC told the court in 2017.

"A short time later she can heard in a very subdued tone, almost moaning, saying 'help me, help me', 'Lionel stop' and 'please help me'."

"Then another female can be heard saying 'what the f**k are you doing' to which he replied 'she's got my kid'."

This is what seems impossible for Natalie to explain to her granddaughter - her own involvement in the twisted web of her father's abuse.

Just a week before her death, Patea took Aria from her mother, refusing to let Tara lay eyes on her daughter.

But when Tara finally managed to get Aria back it seemed to be the final straw for Patea.

Just a week later he called Aria's preschool to check if the little girl would be in that day before ambushing Tara on her way back from the centre.

Since that day, even after Patea was sent to jail for the murder, Natalie's entire life has been spun into chaos - it's been nearly impossible to cope with the devastating loss of her daughter while suddenly being in charge of raising her little girl.

"Day-to-day, I'm still dealing with it," she says.

"It robbed me of being her grandmother, I have to be her mother now.

"I have to do all the things Tara should have been doing with her.

"Tara should be the first one celebrating those milestones not me. I'm the one Tara should be ringing to say 'first tooth today' and 'first day of school today'.

"She should be there with Aria."

As a way to help Aria, Natalie has applied for a Friends With Dignity Little Friends Scholarship on her granddaughter's behalf.

She hopes that receiving one of the 40 $500 scholarships on offer will help offset the financial strain of looking after Aria and also raise awareness for the devastating effect of domestic violence.

"I'm still seeing statistics of other women dying,  laws and legislation that aren't really dealing with these perpetrators," she says.

"The numbers aren't getting lower, they're getting higher.

"We need to bring them down instead."

Friends with Dignity are offering scholarships to children who have experienced or are currently facing domestic and/or family violence throughout Australia. Entries are open for the Little Friends Scholarships right now until 24 February, and are offered bi-annually.

This originally appeared on Kidspot and has been republished with permission.