GABRIELLA Thompson, a young Hunter mother, was brutally stabbed to death by her ex-partner, 21-year-old Tafari Walton, a troubled young man who only seven weeks earlier had been granted bail and released on parole at Kempsey.
Walton, who served more than two years in jail for a siege and firearm offences in 2016, was shot dead by police outside his mother's Glendale home on Thursday morning, less than 24 hours after he had allegedly murdered the mother of his child.
Those who dealt with Walton in the past few years paint a picture of a young man with a troubled upbringing, significant mental health issues, a fascination with weapons, and a desire never to return to jail.
While behind bars, Walton was charged with three serious offences after allegedly stabbing another inmate at the Mid North Coast Correctional Centre at Aldavilla.
But despite those charges, Walton was granted court-ordered parole and extremely strict conditional bail in Kempsey Local Court on January 23. He was due to face those charges in the same court next week.
Walton was subject to a number of strict bail conditions, including a 24-hour curfew and daily reporting to police, at the time that he allegedly stabbed his ex-partner multiple times at a home at Glendale on Wednesday.
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That home was about 700 metres from where police confronted Walton about 9am on Thursday.
Senior police said officers followed him into a backyard in Vena St where Walton "lunged towards" them with a 10-centimetre folding knife. "Police had no other alternative, from my preliminary information, but to unfortunately fatally shoot the attacking person," NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Max Mitchell said.
"We have launched a critical investigation, which is being undertaken by the homicide squad … the critical investigation is also being (overseen) by not only our professional standards command, but also the law enforcement conduct commission."
Thursday's fatal confrontation occurred outside Walton's mother's home, where the then 19-year-old had kept police at bay during a tense siege in June, 2016.
After negotiating with Walton he was arrested without incident and police discovered a firearm.
He ultimately pleaded guilty to using an offensive weapon to prevent lawful detention, possession of an unregistered firearm, possession of an unregistered pistol and demanding property with menaces and was jailed in Newcastle District Court in October, 2017, for a maximum of two-and-a-half years, with a non-parole period of two years.
After being charged with a stabbing inside a correctional centre, Walton's parole was delayed. But he was ultimately released on bail and parole in Kempsey Local Court in January.
Investigators launched a manhunt in search of Walton on Wednesday evening after Ms Thompson died.
Officers conducted an extensive search throughout Glendale into Thursday morning.
Neighbours told the Herald they heard Walton yelling at the officers not to come near him, before they heard three to four shots fired.
"I could hear the cops going, 'Tafari, stop, stop, stop'," a Vena St resident said.
"He's jumped over the fence, about three or four cops all followed him over the fence. I could hear a bit of yelling, 'Tafari come out, Tafari come out'. And I heard four shots."
Assistant Commissioner Mitchell said no taser was used during Thursday morning's encounter.
He said police were not searching for any other person in relation to the murder of Ms Thompson and the investigation would now encompass both the murder of Ms Thompson and the shooting of Walton.
"My understanding was it was quite a violent crime scene," he said of the house where she was stabbed.
"Preliminary information is I believe our officers acted professionally and they have my full support.
"It is unfortunate, very unfortunate, no police officer wants to be involved in these types of incidents.
"But unfortunately our job is also about protecting the wider community and I think police have acted very professionally and courageously on this occasion."
Assistant Commissioner Mitchell said the NSW State Crime Command's Homicide Squad would conduct the critical incident investigation, overseen by the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission and the NSW Police Professional Standards Command.
The Glendale incident was one of two in NSW on Thursday morning in which officers fired their weapon.
The other was in Blacktown in Sydney's west, where police shot a 33-year-old armed man in the wrist.
He was taken to Westmead Hospital.
The Police Association of NSW released a statement saying the incidents were reminders that police put their lives on the line each day when they went to work.
“These two incidents, which occurred just hours apart, highlight just how dangerous a profession policing is,” NSW president Tony King said.
“The police in both of these situations were forced to act quickly in order to ensure the safety of themselves and the community.
"They have to make life and death decisions in a split second."
- reporting by the Newcastle Herald