‘Jealous’ partner’s fatal act

Police officers at the homicide scene in Kelvinside Road, Noble Park in September 2021. 252483_13 Picture: GARY SISSONS

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

Friends had suspected ongoing family violence before a 26-year-old Noble Park woman was stabbed to the death by her partner, a state coroner has reported.

Ngoc Bao Vy Tran was attacked in her partner’s apartment bed at Kelvinside Road on 30 September 2021.

She died at Dandenong Hospital of the multiple stab wounds later that morning.

Her partner Stephen Nguyen, then 37, was acquitted in the Victorian Supreme Court of her murder due to mental impairment.

Coroner John Cain stated in his report on 14 June that Nguyen had felt strange and paranoid the day before the attack.

He picked Ms Tran up after work and took her to his home. They had dinner together, went to bed before Nguyen got up and took a knife from the kitchen.

He stabbed her six times and then himself.

“He later reported to police that he had intended to murder Ms Tran and then suicide,” Judge Cain stated.

The pair, both born in Vietnam, had met on Facebook in Australia in 2019.

They had been in an off-and-on relationship for two years in which friends and neighbours were aware of loud arguments and Nguyen’s jealous controlling behaviour.

“The available evidence suggests that friends of Ms Tran were aware of or suspected that Mr Nguyen was perpetrating violence against Ms Tran prior to her death,” Judge Cain wrote.

“But it does not appear that any relevant support services were contacted in relation to this violence.”

This was the case in many family violence homicides examined by the Coroner’s Court, he noted.

“Research … indicates that victims of family violence are more likely to talk to family and friends about their experiences of violence than contact family violence support services or the police.”

Ms Tran had reported to her friend that Nguyen was verbally abusive and throwing objects in anger.

The friend described him as a “jealous person with a hot temper and … controlling and jealous behaviour”.

He would “go crazy” if he saw a message from a male on Ms Tran’s phone. And would repeatedly message her while she was at a work party, requesting photos to prove where she was.

Neighbours also reported loud arguments at Nguyen’s home, and they reportedly intervened in a dispute in which Nguyen repeatedly punched his car’s window.

Judge Cain said “coercive control” was a “commonly reported theme” in the lead-up to family violence homicides.

But few victims recognised that controlling behaviour was domestic violence or linked to a risk of serious harm, he noted from a study.

Past coronial findings had recommended research-based targeted services to “informal supporters” assisting family violence victim survivors.

In 2021, Family Safety Victoria responded to the court that it was undertaking work to aid “informal supporters” in “priority communities” with Active Bystander Action and Intervention training.

The state’s peak family violence services body Safe and Equal has launched a ‘Are You Safe At Home?’ website including information on how to approach and help a potential victim-survivor.

The information is available in 15 languages including easy English, Judge Cain noted.

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