This post deals with domestic violence and might be triggering for some readers.
Her name was Caitlin O’Brien.
She was 31. A nurse. A daughter. A sister. A brain tumour survivor. But now her name will forever be linked to her violent, abusive partner; etched in the long list of young women killed at the hands of a man who said he loved her.
WATCH: Women and violence: the hidden numbers. Post continues below.
Caitlin O'Brien and Shea Dylan Sturt met as teenagers at TAFE. But theirs was anything but a fairytale romance. Sturt began abusing Caitlin in 2008. Court documents reveal just some of the physical violence carried out against Caitlin included punching, kicking, throwing furniture, pulling hair, strangling and suffocating.
In one incident when Sturt became angry with Caitlin, he grabbed her by the hair, pulled her head onto his lap and punched her six to seven times to the back of the head. When his mother, who witnessed the attack, told him to stop, he said, “I should be able to hit whoever I want.”
The relationship was on and off for 10 years between the physical, verbal and sexual abuse. But she was worried to leave him due to his mental health issues. In March 2017, she messaged a friend saying “We are housemates now only. He doesn't have anywhere else to go right now. I'm not heartless, I can't just kick people out. He has mental issues too, fairly bad ones. I do love him. He's my best friend. I worry about his safety.”
The pair were living together in the Melbourne suburb of Gardenvale in 2019, when Caitlin had surgery to remove a tumour from her brain.
This didn’t stop the violence in the relationship.