O'Brien case: teen attacked over dusty table

Illawarra teenager Louise O'Brien was struck on the forehead with a vacuum cleaner pole by a family friend because a table was dusty, Wollongong District Court heard yesterday.

A witness told the court that Ms O'Brien was hit with the object at a house in the Illawarra's northern suburbs around August 2008.

Shortly afterwards, on October 12, 2008, Ms O'Brien died from injuries which had been inflicted upon her.

Yesterday a woman who cannot be named for legal reasons appeared before Judge David Frearson charged with five counts of assault on Ms O'Brien, over a period from February 2005 to October 2008.

In a judge-only trial, the woman has pleaded not guilty to two charges of common assault and three charges of assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

Ms O'Brien moved from Sydney to the Illawarra in early 2005 to live with the accused, who was a close family friend.

The witness told the court she had been visiting the northern suburbs house where Ms O'Brien was living with the accused around August 2008.

On the day of the alleged assault, the woman wiped her index finger along a table and called out to Ms O'Brien: "What do you call this?".

The witness said Ms O'Brien, who appeared to be nervous, was then struck with part of the vacuum cleaner on the forehead.

"I remember there was a mark and a bit of blood dribbled down," the witness said.

Another witness told Judge Frearson that she saw Ms O'Brien with burns and blisters on the palms of both her hands.

The witness said Ms O'Brien's hands were burned on a stove top and that she was made to wash up dishes in boiling hot water.

"She got her hands burnt by [the accused] because she stole cigarettes and money from her," the witness said.

The witness also told the court she saw the accused, on another occasion, "belting into" Ms O'Brien with closed fists, punching her stomach, arms and head.

Crown prosecutor Michael Fox alleged the accused, in a separate incident, pushed Ms O'Brien's head through a glass panel of the front door at the northern suburbs home.

The accused's daughter also gave evidence that she saw her mother strike Ms O'Brien with a two-litre plastic milk bottle at the house of a family member in Sydney's western suburbs.

The incident happened because Ms O'Brien had made coffee which was not to the accused's liking, the daughter said.

The daughter also told the court she heard about the burning of Ms O'Brien's hands but waited until the morning to look at them.

Defence barrister Wayne Flynn asked why she did not look at Ms O'Brien's hands that night.

"It was a normal occurrence in my mum's household," she said.

The trial continues today.

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