A murder trial into Jeffrey’s 2017 death will not go ahead because the woman accused of his murder, his ex partner, died in January. Her death was not treated as suspicious.
Jeffrey was severely burned when his granny flat, just metres from his parent’s house in Sydney, was engulfed in flames.
Treated by paramedics at the scene and whisked to hospital, Jeffrey died in hospital two days later.
“I feel very numb about it all right now,” Corinne Lindsell, Jeffrey’s younger sister, told news.com.au.
“At first I felt relief that we don’t have to go through the trial – because we were dreading it – but now, it’s so final and we don’t have the answers we wanted.
“We had so many questions.”
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It took an eight-month investigation before Jeffrey’s on-again, off-again partner Amanda Zukowski, 49, was charged with his murder. She was accused of lighting the fire and tampering with the property’s water supply. Four lighters were found in the wreckage.
Yet, she was subsequently granted bail in the Supreme Court in November 2018.
“The trial was due to begin on February 3. We were told it would take 4-6 weeks and 300 witnesses had been subpoenaed,” Corinne says.
“We knew it was going to be full on hearing all the evidence and confronting, but we knew all along who did it.”
On that fateful night, Corinne got the phone call from her mother at around 1.30am to say that Jeffrey’s house was on fire.
“That phone call hasn’t left my mind, I can’t get it out of my head,” she says.
“My mum was distraught first saying, ‘Jeff’s house is on fire’, and then, ‘Jeff is on fire’. I lived 20 minutes drive away. When I arrived at the house I was greeted by police who said, ‘You can’t go in’. I replied, ‘My family’s in there’. The police asked, ‘Do you know Amanda?’ I said, ‘She did this didn’t she?’”
She recounts painful memories of waiting at the hospital for an update on her brother’s condition.
The first words they heard from doctors were that he had burns to 80 per cent of his body and a 20 per cent chance of survival.
“We all knew that Amanda had anger issues,” Corinne says. “Jeff had changed in the couple of years they’d been seeing each other. He suddenly started keeping himself to himself, that wasn’t our Jeff. He turned into a recluse.
“The year before he’d cut off a lot of his very close friends. Anyone who tried to warn him about Amanda, he cut off.”
In 2015, Corinne says one morning her parents had been woken up to seeing his front door being kicked in. The troubled couple had broken up that night, Amanda was calling Jeffrey but he’d gone to stay at a friend’s place, saying he didn’t want to have to deal with her. She smashed in the door, slept in his bed, and left the following morning.
There were pieces of the jigsaw from friends too.
“On my way home from a Crowded House concert a few years ago, I saw one of his old friends,” Corinne remembers. “I asked why they weren’t friends anymore. She replied: ‘Because of her.’”
Jeffrey’s younger brother Nathan also says they had no idea how bad Jeffrey’s relationship was until after his death.
“Only then did we see hundreds of character witnesses saying she was always yelling at him,” he says.
“We found out she was hitting him and biting him after he passed away. One friend said Jeff once had some bruises and a mark around his eye and confessed Amanda had lashed out. He never talked to me about their relationship.
“A couple of weeks before the fire, my wife said, ‘I’m worried about Jeff, you should talk to him, I think something’s going on with Amanda.’
“I shrugged it off and said, ‘He’s fine.’
“Now, looking back, I wish I’d started that conversation. I think he was probably too embarrassed to speak up. I’ve talked to a lot of people about these issues since we lost Jeff, it’s amazing how many people who know men who have experienced domestic violence but no one talks about it. We’ve got to make it easier to start these conversations.”
The family were being well-supported by the Homicide Victims Support Group, which was started by the parents of Ebony Simpson who was murdered in 1992 and Anita Cobby who was murdered in 1986.
They were preparing for the trial and had counselling sessions booked in advance.
Then they were asked to go to their parent’s house as detectives managing their case had some news.
“They said, ‘Well, there’s not going to be a trial,’” Nathan says.
“My immediate thought was, ‘Amanda’s going to plead guilty.’ But then they said she’d been found dead. The last time I saw her was via video link in the court. I hated seeing her because I knew what she’d done.
“We are all still struggling to process the news. There’s definitely anger among our family. I can’t help but feel if the genders were reversed, we wouldn’t have been waiting two years for a trial.
“It’s just so tragic. I’m a social worker, I see men suffering so often but there’s no support for them. Any men’s line you call gives advice on behavioural change, that’s it, it’s so wrong.”
Nathan adds: “I never knew how one-sided domestic violence campaigns were or how ridiculously biased the justice system was until we lost Jeff.
“After his murder I noticed campaigns are aimed at women and children, they very rarely even mention domestic violence against men. Amanda should never have been granted bail.
“We were furious and lost all faith in the system at that point. Her bail conditions allowed her to go to the park and shops.
“Three weeks before the trial, she (died) and it’s left our family with no answers – and no justice for Jeff.”
The grieving family say the tragedy has brought them even closer than they were before. Together they’re determined to use this opportunity to encourage men to speak up, talk to their friends and not go it alone.