Erin Williams, The Courier, Ballarat
A 20-YEAR-old woman who helped her brother dispose the body of her childhood friend, who was allegedly murdered in Ballarat, has avoided immediate imprisonment.
Kieahn Kotiau was sentenced to a 12-month community corrections order at the Supreme Court in Melbourne on Thursday last week.
She had pleaded guilty to concealing Tamara Farrell’s body in her vehicle, assisting in the disposal of her body in Nambrok and assisting in hiding evidentiary items.
Ms Farrell, a 32-year-old Ballarat bus driver, was allegedly killed in her home in the suburb of Canadian on Saturday, February 16, 2019, after a night of games with Kotiau and her brother Shaye Kotiau.
The next day, Kieahn Kotiau helped remove Ms Farrell’s body and drove with her brother to Nambrok, where Ms Farrell’s body was allegedly doused with petrol and set alight.
Justice James Elliiott told Kotiau her offending was very serious and no doubt, when she first saw Ms Farrell’s body “you were confronted with what would have been a horrifying scene”.
“It was submitted on your behalf that your offending should be considered in the context of your youth and immaturity, and the extremely stressful and confusing situation in which you found yourself,” Justice Elliott said.
“It was contended you felt ill-equipped to extricate yourself. I accept that the circumstances would have induced a state of shock, confusion, nervousness and distress. Further, the events were preceded by a very late night involving drinking and lack of sleep.
“This would not have assisted your state of mind or your ability to respond to what was unexpectedly thrust before you.”
Justice Elliott said he accepted Kotiau was under pressure to follow orders but he said she had clear and substantial opportunities to take an alternate course and was therefore unable to avail herself of the duress defence.
In his judgement, he said Kotiau had good prospects of rehabilitation.
“You have expressed remorse for your actions and have recognised, that looking back, you could have done more. You have also expressed sadness, grief, shame and intense emotional suffering regarding the impact of Ms Farrell’s death on her family,” Justice Elliott said.
He said it was appropriate a community corrections order be imposed because of Kotiau’s prior good character, remorse, co-operation with police, age, early guilty plea and undertaking to give evidence at her brother’s trial.
After spending the night drinking and playing games with her brother, Ms Farrell and her housemate, Kotiau fell asleep at Ms Farrell’s house and woke up about 12.30pm the following day.
Later that afternoon she saw Ms Farrell’s naked body lying on the floor of her bathroom and noticed the right side of her face was dark, as if bruised.
Kotiau followed orders to ensure Ms Farrell’s housemate did not see Ms Farrell’s body while it was loaded into the boot of her car.
The former nursing home administrator drove to Altona with her brother and stopped at a petrol station where he allegedly filled the car and a petrol container.
Kotiau stayed in the car at the petrol station, with Ms Farrell’s body in the boot, while her brother walked home to get money to pay for the petrol.
Kotiau made no efforts to tell protective service officers about Ms Farrell when they parked near her and entered the store.
She then drove to their family home, where her brother allegedly collected a bag of clothes, a hammer and a chisel.
Kotiau followed orders to drive to Ararat, but missed the exit and pretended to be lost, before continuing driving to Nambrok, where the body was allegedly dumped.
Kotiau went to work on Monday and made no attempts to tell anyone what had happened until police arrived at the family’s home on Monday evening. She was distressed and upset, made a statement to police and directed them to Ms Farrell’s body.
Items from Ms Farrell’s home, along with a bag containing Ms Farrell’s lower jaw, teeth, hair and a pendant, were found under a railway bridge in Altona.
The 12-month community corrections order includes 200 hours of unpaid community work and assessment and treatment, including testing for alcohol abuse.
A trial date has not been set down for Shaye Kotiau, who has been charged with murder.