St George and Sutherland Shire Leader

Raising awareness: Nathan, Des, Kathy and Corinne Lindsell want people to know men can also be domestic violence victims. Picture: Chris Lane

Jeff Lindsell’s family have discovered he endured two years of domestic violence before the Gymea granny flat fire which claimed his life.

His parents Kathy and Des and siblings Nathan and Corinne are speaking out to raise awareness that men, as well as women and children, can be victims of this scourge on society.

Mr Lindsell, 39, suffered extensive burns in the fire, which broke out while he slept in the flat in the backyard of the family’s San Remo Avenue home in 2017. He died in hospital two days later.

His former partner Amanda Zukowski was found dead in January this year, three weeks before she was due to stand trial for his murder. Police said there were no suspicious circumstances.

Her death has left the Lindsell family with an empty feeling and unanswered questions. They feel, along with police and the justice system, they have been “robbed” of a jury delivering a guilty verdict.

They hope to get the message across that men also suffer domestic violence, but are likely to try and hide it because they are embarrassed and it seems “unmacho”.

“Domestic violence shouldn’t really have a gender or age,” Kathy said. “The message should just be, ‘Stop domestic violence’.

“We had no idea Jeff was in a DV relationship because he kept it secret. We should have realised when his personality changed and he withdrew from his family and friends.”

Corinne Lindsell said, “It upsets me that domestic violence by women against men is viewed as less significant. I don’t understand why a man’s life is less important.”

Ms Zukowski had pleaded not guilty, and her barrister told a bail hearing police could not exclude the fire may have been an accident.

It was reported that, in one of 1000 intercepted phone calls, she allegedly told her mother she might have dropped a cigarette before the fire.

The Lindsell family have no doubt the fire was deliberate given clear evidence of water pressure tampering, Ms Zukowski’s assurance Mr Lindsell was not inside the flat and what they now know about the relationship.

They were aware of problems but learnt much more from friends who visited Mr Lindsell in hospital.

The couple were together “on and off” for about two years. She lived with her daughter at Taren Point and he in the Gymea flat.

During that time, he went from being a happy-go-lucky character, who loved family gatherings and was “everyone’s mate” – always willing to lend a hand – to being a recluse.

“She stopped him from being with his friends and doing family things,” Kathy said. “When he tried to break up with her, she threatened either her own life or to damage his property.

“After one break-up, he stayed at a mate’s place and she smashed the door of his flat. At other times, she smashed his TV and car windscreen and slashed his leather lounge. He had three lounges in two years.

“Jeff had bite marks on his arm and a gash to his eye which became infected.

“Jeff was warehouse manager at Harvey Norman Taren Point and his colleagues told us she would rock up and order him to come home. His job was suffering.

“He couldn’t leave her, he was being manipulated.”

On the night of the fire, the couple argued at the Gymea Hotel and walked back to the flat separately about 11pm.

About 1.30am, Des Lindsell was awakened by a neighbour alerting him to the fire.

“I didn’t think anyone was inside because when a neighbour asked [Ms Zukowski] ‘Where’s Jeff?, she replied, ‘I don’t know, he’s not in there’.

“When I turned the hose on, the water pressure was very low. The hose was only three metres long and water should have been gushing out, but I had to put my finger over the end to try and get a stream.

“We moved our cars out and I went back to use the hose again and suddenly Jeff came running out of the flat covered in flames.

“We discovered later the water meter in the front yard was only a quarter of a turn from being off, and she was seen near it.”

A neighbour also saw water running under the door from taps in the laundry of the flat.”.

The family is indebted to the three Arson Squad detectives – all of whom are about Mr Lindsell’s age – not just for their dogged investigation, but also for their care and support.

The police have sent messages at Christmas, other significant public holidays and anniversaries, asking how they are going?

The Homicide Victims Support Group has also been of enormous help.

“It is like a new family we have got, a family who have got a similar story,” Kathy said. “We don’t have to say anything, they know how we feel.”

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