GABRIELLA Thompson, a young Hunter mother, was brutally stabbed to death by her ex-partner, 21-year-old Tafari Walton, a troubled young man with a history of mental illness and domestic abuse who only seven weeks earlier had been granted bail and released on parole.
Walton, who served more than two years in jail for a siege and firearm offences in 2016, was shot dead by police outside his mother's Glendale home on Thursday morning, less than 24 hours after he had brutally murdered the mother of his child.
Those who dealt with Walton in the last few years paint a picture of a young man with a troubled upbringing, significant mental health issues, a fascination with weapons, a history of domestic violence and a desire never to return to jail.
While behind bars, Walton was charged with three serious offences after allegedly stabbing another inmate at the Mid North Coast Correctional Centre.
But despite those charges, Walton was granted court-ordered parole and extremely strict conditional bail in Kempsey Local Court on January 23. He was due to face those charges in the same court next week.
Walton was subject to a number of strict bail conditions, including a 24-hour curfew and daily reporting to police, at the time that he stabbed his ex-partner multiple times at a home at Stephens Avenue, Glendale on Wednesday.
That home was about 700 metres from where police confronted Walton about 9am on Thursday.
Senior police said officers followed him into a backyard in Vena Street where Walton "lunged towards" them with a 10-centimetre folding knife. "Police had no other alternative, from my preliminary information, but to unfortunately fatally shoot the attacking person," NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Max Mitchell said.
"We have launched a critical investigation, which is being undertaken by the homicide squad … the critical investigation is also being [overseen] by not only our professional standards command, but also the law enforcement conduct commission."
Mr Mitchell said officers acted "quite quick" in the interaction with Walton, who he said had "lunged towards" them.
Thursday's fatal confrontation occurred outside Walton's mother's home, where the then 19-year-old had kept police at bay during a tense siege in June, 2016.
After negotiating with Walton he was arrested without incident and police discovered a firearm.
He ultimately pleaded guilty to using an offensive weapon to prevent lawful detention, possession of an unregistered firearm, possession of an unregistered pistol and demanding property with menaces and was jailed in Newcastle District Court in October, 2017, for a maximum of two-and-a-half years, with a non-parole period of two years.
After being charged with a stabbing inside a correctional centre, Walton's parole was delayed. But he was ultimately released on bail and parole in Kempsey Local Court in January.
Investigators launched a manhunt in search of Walton on Wednesday evening after Ms Thompson died.
Police said Walton was involved in "concerning incidents with the potential for serious injury or other loss of life on Wednesday night".
Officers conducted an extensive search throughout Glendale into Thursday morning.
A Vena Street resident told the Newcastle Herald that police had used his car on Wednesday night to stake out the mother’s house, laying on the back seat in the search for Walton.
A traffic control worker whose crew was working on nearby Alfred Street, said police had approached them early Thursday morning to keep an eye out for a man fitting Walton's description.
The worker said police turned up to the Vena Street house some time later.
“It was bang, bang, bang,” the worker said.
Neighbours told the Herald they heard Walton yelling at the officers not to come near him, before they heard three to four shots fired.
"I could hear the cops going, 'Tafari, stop, stop, stop'," a Vena Street resident said.
"He's jumped over the fence, about three or four cops all followed him over the fence. I could hear a bit of yelling, 'Tafari come out, Tafari come out'. And I heard four shots."
Nearby Glendale Drive resident, Karen Webster, 48, said multiple police cars arrived about 9am.
"About 15 police [officers] in the street," she said.
"I do know that the young guy that was on the run's mother lives there, it is his mum's place.
“The police came over and asked if we had bolt cutters. They rushed over and said, ‘do you have bolt cutters, do you have bolt cutters?’."
Glendale Drive resident Steph Dick, 57, said he had heard about the stabbing on Wednesday but thought it was all wrapped up. He was shocked at Thursday's incident.
"I heard a lot of cop cars coming down, they come from all directions," he said.
"I was watching telly; I didn't hear a thing other than the cop cars.
"It's a tragedy, it's a shame."
Mr Dick, a resident of the suburb for most of his life, said the area was usually a quiet neighbourhood.
"Quiet, very quiet," he said.
"You hear a lot of traffic, that's about the worst it gets.
"You wouldn't think something like this would happen at your back door or your front door."
Assistant Commissioner Mitchell said no taser was used during Thursday morning's encounter.
He said police were not searching for any other person in relation to the murder of Ms Thompson and the investigation would now encompass both the murder of Ms Thompson and the shooting of Walton.
"My understanding was it was quite a violent crime scene," he said of the house where she was stabbed.
"Preliminary information is I believe our officers acted professionally and they have my full support.
"It is unfortunate, very unfortunate, no police officer wants to be involved in these types of incidents.
"But unfortunately our job is also about protecting the wider community and I think police have acted very professionally and courageously on this occasion."
Assistant Commissioner Mitchell said the NSW State Crime Command's Homicide Squad would conduct the critical incident investigation, overseen by the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission and the NSW Police Professional Standards Command.
Naomi, who was dropping her children at Glendale East Public School on Thursday morning when she found it had been locked down because of the shooting, said she knew Ms Thompson through family.
"He obviously stabbed her, which is just so heartbreaking," she said.
"She's sweet, very quiet. She wasn't a very big personality or anything.
"Until you got to know her, she was probably quite shy.
"I think she's had a bad life growing up, so maybe she has been around the wrong type of people most of her life, but [that is] still no reason for this to happen.
"Domestic violence, it's just a crazy thing. It happens so often unfortunately, what can we do about it?"
The Glendale incident was one of two in NSW on Thursday morning in which officers fired their weapon.
The other was in Blacktown in Sydney's west, where police shot a 33-year-old armed man in the wrist.
He was taken to Westmead Hospital.
The Police Association of NSW released a statement saying the incidents were reminders that police put their lives on the line each day when they went to work.
“These two incidents, which occurred just hours apart, highlight just how dangerous a profession policing is,” NSW president Tony King said.
“The police in both of these situations were forced to act quickly in order to ensure the safety of themselves and the community.
"They have to make life and death decisions in a split second."
Mr King said it was "sometimes easy to forget that police are people too".
“Police put their lives on the line every single day in order to keep the people of NSW safe," he said.
“The police involved in these incidents now have to live with the trauma of the event forever.
“The officers, their colleagues and their families are forced to deal with the trauma of horrific incidents like these for the rest of their lives.”
The association said it was providing support to members directly and indirectly involved in the incidents at Glendale and Blacktown.
NSW Police would not comment on the matter of Walton's release from jail, because it was court determined bail.
Paramedic Inspector Joel de'Zuna said on Wednesday ambulance officers were "confronted with a distressing scene" when they encountered Ms Thompson.
He said she had suffered "multiple stab wounds".
"NSW Ambulance certainly offers support to all our paramedics," he said.
"The paramedics involved are being provided with the appropriate services.
"Once paramedics arrived… they did a rapid assessment, a rapid load and transported her to John Hunter Hospital.
"At the time, with paramedics, she was in a critical condition with ambulance paramedics continuing the treatment."
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