SILENCE and obfuscation are familiar to many who deal with domestic abuse. Often the offences are hidden, both during and after they are committed. It is a stigma that can have lethal consequences, and is one advocates and lawmakers have been eager to break.
Mr Walton, 22, had repeatedly threatened to kill Ms Thompson, the 27-year-old mother of his then three-year-old daughter. The inquest heard he had accused her of cheating on him, controlled and manipulated her and, during the brief periods he spent out of jail, had routinely assaulted her.
Her death came at his hands on March 13 2019, leading to a manhunt through Newcastle. Walton hid out in Cardiff, carjacked strangers and was ultimately shot dead by two police in a Glendale backyard. The coroner's recommendations include clarifying police protocol around domestic violence to identify cases clearly and ensure officers speak to the victim personally. Corrective Services NSW has also been urged to consider revisions to drug testing and reporting suspected bail breaches to police "in particular where the breach relates to an identified risk to the community".
"Now that findings have been delivered into these deaths, I hope that each family can find some comfort in the fact that the inquest has looked carefully into the circumstances and has identified some areas for future change," the coroner's conclusion released on Friday notes.
Even such a nightmarish outcome can serve some purpose if it hardens the resolve in all of us to accept that things can be done differently, that we cannot allow domestic abuse to flourish in secrecy. There is little solace for anyone in the aftermath of a case as violent and tragic as this. Ultimately, the coronial inquest is a process for discovering what can be learned from a case in which circumstances conspired for a result no-one would hope to see repeated. We can but hope these recommendations can become a legacy for those still reeling from the deaths of two young people. It is one that a system that ultimately failed to prevent their deaths owes to anyone else who could in future face such a fate.
Matt Carr, deputy editor