Brutal coward sent to prison for attack

A ‘‘thuggish coward’’ who forced his battered partner to jump out of a motel window and hide in bushes to avoid police has been jailed for more than three years.

A District Court judge said Nathan Costello was ‘‘cunning and calculating’’ and knew his behaviour – which included smothering his partner with a pillow, slamming her head into concrete and terrorising her with knives –  was wrong.

Judge Paul Conlon said the 28-year-old was ‘‘seeking total dominance of the victim and he used physical and verbal attacks designed to break the victim down physically and mentally’’.

Yesterday Wollongong District Court heard details of the woman’s suffering at the hands of her partner of 6 years, who had already been convicted in 2006 of burning down her house.

Judge Conlon said it was clear the woman had suffered a terrifying ordeal between February 15 and March 12 this year when Costello was arrested.

‘‘She was subjected to continual violence at the hand of a thuggish coward who knew what he was doing was wrong,’’ Judge Conlon said.

‘‘While it is clear the offender had mental health issues it is clear from the victim’s statements that he was cunning and calculating in attempting to have his wrongdoing concealed from police.

‘‘He asked her to lie to police and that same conduct continued after he was taken into custody,’’ said Judge Conlon.

Judge Conlon sentenced Costello, of Barrack Heights, to a minimum 3 years in jail with an additional 15-month parole period.

Costello pleaded guilty to five counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and resisting arrest.

Judge Conlon said photos of the woman’s injuries were a ‘‘clear indication of the level of brutality she was subjected to’’.

‘‘Her treating doctor informed her she had nerve damage to her cheek, lost the top row of her’s hardly surprising she now suffers post traumatic stress,’’ he said.

The court heard the first assault happened on February 15, 2012, after the victim answered a knock at the front door.

Costello ‘‘became enraged’’, believing she was with another man.

He searched the house for evidence before pushing her on to a bed and using ‘‘his hands and a pillow to cover’’ her face. 

She struggled to breathe and passed out, Judge Conlon said.

‘‘When she came to, she was naked...He continued to hold his hand over her face and nose and while  he was doing this he was laughing. She passed out again,’’ Judge Conlon said.

During the attack, the victim pleaded for him to stop but he continued, hitting her across the head with a closed fist. 

He held two knives upside down, ‘‘hitting her several times with the blunt end’’.

‘‘At one point during the assault, the offender jabbed her in the chest with the sharp end of the knife,’’ Judge Conlon said.

Later, Costello made the victim tell doctors her injuries were the result of a car accident.

After police had been made aware of the assaults, Costello persuaded the victim to go to a Figtree motel with him on March 5.

‘‘He was paranoid and believed police were looking for him; he then proposed they jump from the motel room and they hid in lantana for hours in an attempt to avoid police,’’ Judge Conlon said.

‘‘He made her run and when she would not run fast enough, he kicked her, and slapped her in [the] back of [the] head.’’

They returned later to the motel and staff concerned about the victim called police.

The couple fled the motel, with Costello seeking refuge with a friend in North Wollongong before hiding out in an abandoned unit in Crown Street.

‘‘When she said she wanted to leave, he became enraged and slammed her head against concrete,’’ Judge Conlon said.

Eventually Costello was arrested on March 12 on a northbound train from Kiama.

Costello will be eligible for parole on September 12, 2015.