ACT News

Axe murder accused had breached a domestic violence order against his last girlfriend

Tara Costigan wasn't the first woman to turn to the courts for protection from the man now accused of killing her, Marcus Rappel.

Marcus Rappel has pleaded guilty to the murder of Tara Costigan.
Marcus Rappel has pleaded guilty to the murder of Tara Costigan. Photo: Facebook

His last girlfriend also feared for her own safety and that of her two-year-old boy, obtaining a domestic violence order against Rappel in August 2013 after they split up.

Rappel, similar to his alleged murder of Ms Costigan on Saturday, paid no heed to the court order, breaching it by riding to his ex's house two months later, yelling abuse at her as she stood with her son, and accusing her neighbour of being her "lover boy".

Tara Costigan was allegedly murdered by her former partner Marcus Rappel, 40.
Tara Costigan was allegedly murdered by her former partner Marcus Rappel, 40. Photo: Supplied

ACT police arrested him for the breach, and he was fined $900 and put on a good behaviour order for 12 months from December 2013.

That order expired two months before his next alleged victim, Ms Costigan, also turned to the courts for protection.

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The day after she applied for a domestic violence order, Rappel allegedly forced his way into a Calwell home and killed her with an axe.

The death of Ms Costigan - the mother of two boys, aged nine and 11, and a one-week-old girl - has helped reignite the national conversation about Australia's domestic violence epidemic.

These latest revelations about Rappel's past add to the ongoing debate about the supports and protections that governments and courts can give to women at risk.

Ms Costigan's case reached Federal Parliament on Wednesday, where Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek spoke of Ms Costigan's death as she urged the government to stand against domestic violence. 

"Tara hoped that the provisions of the law and the resources of her government would protect her," she said. "They did not."

"Tara Costigan is not the only, is far from the only, Australian woman our community, our legal system, our governments have failed."

She spoke of the one in five Australian women aged 18 and over, or 1.5 million women, who had been victim to a partner's violence since the age of 15.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten called for a national crisis summit on domestic violence on Wednesday, and announced Labor would deliver $70 million over three years for front-line legal services, home safety measures and research into perpetrators.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott urged for better state co-ordination through the Council of Australian Governments, and federal and state governments committed $30 million for a domestic violence awareness campaign on Wednesday.

Mr Abbott also pledged a bipartisan approach to the issue. 

The ACT government voiced its support for a national summit, but said its priority had to be on "securing funding certainty" from the federal government. 

"Recent events in the territory have left much of our community shocked and deeply angry. I welcome Bill Shorten's commitment to funding responses to that violence,"  Minister for Women Yvette Berry said.

On the ground, local refuges and legal services for vulnerable women are crying out for urgent funding boosts, as they deal with cuts and ever increasing demand. 

Rappel spent his fifth night in the Alexander Maconochie Centre last night.

In September 2013, one month before he breached the domestic violence order against his last girlfriend, he was sentenced for domestic-violence related crimes in NSW.

The Narooma Local Court issued non-conviction orders for two common assaults and stalking, putting Rappel on a 12-month good behaviour bond. 

Rappel's alleged attack in Calwell on Saturday seriously injured two others, including Ms Costigan's sister.

Police arrived at the scene after reports of a "major disturbance" and arrested Rappel. He was charged in the ACT Magistrates Court on Monday with murder, inflicting grievous bodily harm, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and contravening a protection order.

Generally, the target of a domestic violence order is notified of their partner or ex-partner's accusations as soon as practicably possible, generally within 24 or 48 hours of the order being granted.

That time is typically considered high risk in domestic violence cases, and support workers often advise against applying for such orders if it is likely to trigger further violence.