The horrifying history of violence by one of Australia’s worst domestic abusers can be revealed as a coroner rules he likely bashed and choked his ex-partner to death.
Paul McDonald, 39, who a court heard once gloated ‘I have got away with murder’, has been convicted more than 70 times.
He was this week found by a coroner to be responsible for the death of his de facto partner Kirra-Lea McLoughlin.
Paramedics found Ms McLoughlin, 27, with 105 bruises on her body, unconscious and with a severe head injury in her home near Gympie in southeast Queensland in 2014.
The mother-of-four was found brain dead on arrival before dying the next day of a traumatic brain injury.
Paul McDonald, 39, was this week ruled by a coroner to be likely responsible for the death of his former partner Kirra-Lea McLoughlin (pictured together)
McDonald told first responders she overdosed on antidepressants and he couldn’t wake her, but doctors found no evidence of drug or alcohol overdose in her system.
The coroner found McDonald – who has not been charged over Ms McLoughlin’s death – likely flew into a rage and bashed her after she told him ‘I don’t love you anymore’.
The inquest heard McDonald later told a former partner he felt guilt, as his own sister feared she was responsible for Ms McLoughlin’s death after the pair fought earlier on the night of her death.
‘I have got away with murder and I’ll kill you if you ever say anything to anybody,’ the inquest heard he told the woman.
Now the extent of McDonald’s shocking domestic violence history – stretching from 2005 to 2018 – has been laid bare in the coroner’s court through police records and statements from his previous partners.
One woman recalled ‘threats to kill her and her family, strangulation, suffocation and rape’, while another said he ‘threatened to stab her in the neck with a tent peg’, the Courier Mail reported.
McDonald’s ex, referred to in court as ‘K’, had police attend 32 domestic disturbances throughout their 10-year relationship.
In 2005, McDonald punched ‘K’, who was then pregnant, in the face, with police recording blood and scratches around her neck.
Three years later, police visited the home where ‘K’ told police he grabbed her neck and ‘threatened to slit her throat’ after he accused her of cheating on him.
In 2010, when she asked him to turn down music as her child was sleeping, he again grabbed her neck and threatened to punch her.
Two years later, police were again called to find bruising around ‘K’s neck, among other injuries, after another fight erupted between the pair.
In 2015, another report was made against McDonald against a new partner, known in court as ‘G’.
Ms McLoughlin (pictured) was found by paramedics at her property in Wolvi, near Gympie in Queensland, heavily bruised, unconscious and with a severe head injury in July 2014
On the way to hospital, Ms McLoughlin’s brain was so swollen that it had extended down into her spinal cord. Upon arrival, she was brain dead and later died.
The woman said the violence over their six-month relationship ‘included threats to kill her and her family, strangulation, suffocation and rape’.
She reported being headbutted, grabbed around the neck, being hit with wine bottles, and being threatened that he would ‘slit her throat’.
McDonald then started seeing a woman, referred to as ‘J’, in August 2018, who said she was ‘regularly assaulted’.
During one incident, she was held against her will in a tent, where he threatened to stab her in the neck with a tent peg.
She managed to cut a hole in the side of the tent while he was asleep and escape, seeking assistance from workers at a nearby restaurant.
Deputy State Coroner Jane Bentley, who handed down her findings in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Monday, said McDonald’s criminal history of more than 70 domestic violence convictions indicated he was a ‘serial perpetrator’.
Ms Bentley found Ms McLoughlin died from swelling on her brain and McDonald had likely choked the mother, hit her head against the floor and struck her with a baseball bat.
Ms McLoughlin (pictured) met McDonald while working on a turkey farm, with him later moving into her Wolvi home
The coroner’s report found the 39-year-old did not call for help until the afternoon after Ms McLoughlin likely suffered the fatal injuries at 11.30pm on July 16, 2014.
‘I find that choking is the most likely mechanism by which her death was caused,’ she wrote.
‘I find that Mr McDonald has a propensity to inflict severe physical violence on his partners and is a habitual perpetrator of severe and domestic abuse, including coercive control of his partners.’
McDonald, whom met Ms McLoughlin on a turkey farm, moved into her Wolvi home in August 2013, but the relationship soon turned volatile, with the young mother texting neighbours ‘call 000’ during his outbursts, the inquest heard.
On the evening of her death, the court heard McDonald, Ms McLoughlin, and members of his family, were drinking at the home when a fight broke out between Ms McLoughlin and McDonald’s sister, Tamiqua.
Ms McLoughlin was punched in the face several times, the coroner found, and McDonald intervened by throwing a tin of paint at both the women, before his mother arrived a short time later and took him and Tamiqua away from the home.
The coroner found McDonald returned to the house again later that night, with neighbours reporting hearing Ms McLoughlin shouting ‘I don’t love you anymore’ as the pair fought.
A call was made to medical hotline 13 HEALTH at 2.46am, but the caller hung up, with McDonald placing a second call 12 hours later at 2.06pm, records show.
McDonald told the operator he believed his partner had overdosed on antidepressants, and he was advised to immediately call 000.
Paramedics arrived and found bruises on Ms McLoughlin’s face, which McDonald explained were caused by her fight with his sister, the inquest heard.
The coroner said McDonald had a criminal history which included more than 70 domestic violence offences
The coroner heard the hospital staff discovered further bruising on her thighs and McDonald had tried to conceal injuries to his hand in following days.
A port mortem found Ms McLoughlin death was likely due to a lack of oxygen or blood flow to the brain.
Police searched the house and found it in disarray, with dents and holes in a wall, an upturned cupboard, and a broken broom stick on the couch.
No-one has yet been charged and the coroner did not refer the findings of the inquest to homicide detectives.
Ms Bentley did say though a police investigation into the death was ongoing.
The inquest had previously heard how on the night of Ms McLoughlin’s death neighbours had heard chilling screams from inside the home.
On the way to hospital, Ms McLoughlin’s brain was so swollen that it had extended down into her spinal cord.
She was flown to Gold Coast University Hospital where her mother Alison was forced to say her goodbyes to her lifeless daughter.
‘The doctor just looked at me and she said ‘there’s nothing, there’s zero brain activity,’ the tearful mother told Australian Story in September.
PAUL MCDONALD’S HISTORY OF DOMESTIC ABUSE
- Dated McDonald for 10 tens, with police responding to 32 domestic disturbances
- In 2005, McDonald punched ‘K’, who was then pregnant, in the face, with police recording blood and scratches around her neck.
- In 2008, police visited to the home, with ‘K’ telling police he had grabbed her neck and ‘threatened to slit’ her throat after he accused her of cheating on him.
- In 2010, when she asked him to turn down music as her child was sleeping, he again grabbed her neck and threatened to punch her.
- In 2013, police were again called to find bruising around ‘K’s neck, among other injuries, after another fight erupted between the pair.
- In 2015, another report was made against McDonald after he headbutted ‘G’ and grabbed her throat
- The woman said the violence over their six-month relationship ‘included threats to kill her and her family, strangulation, suffocation and rape’.
- In 2018, McDonald started dating ‘J’
- During one incident, she was held against her will in a tent, where he threatened to stab her in the neck with a tent peg. She managed to cut a hole in the side of the tent while he was asleep and escape, seeking assistance from workers at a nearby restaurant.
- In February 2014, Ms McLoughlin’s mother calls police after receiving a message from her daughter asking for help
- Ms McLoughlin tells police McDonald aggressively quizzed her on her sex life and pushed and slapped her after each response
- Later that evening he again slapped her in front of her children and during a car ride to get him alcohol
- In 2014, Ms McLoughlin barricades herself into a bedroom, before McDonald breached the door and assaulted and threatened her
‘She said that the X-ray looked like as if it was shaken baby syndrome. Considering the marks on her face… it seems to me that she was bashed into the ground continuously.’
On the third day of the inquest, a former girlfriend of Ms McLoughlin’s partner told the court he had confessed to hurting her on the night she died.
‘He said he was in a violent rage and shaking her and her head was banging on the floor or wall,’ the woman said.
‘But he said they sorted it out, everything was fine and they went to bed… said he woke up early that morning, noticed she’d urinated on herself and wasn’t able to wake her up.
‘He said he freaked out, rung somebody and then rang the ambulance.’
The woman told the court the man ‘needed to get it off his chest’ when confessing.
The inquest also heard from Ms McLoughlin’s boyfriend’s mother, who claimed her son was violent towards the young mum.
Pictured: Ms McLoughlin. Neighbours had heard chilling screams coming from inside the home
‘If you’re trying to point out domestic violence, in three cases they were all as bad each other, if one was hitting, he was hitting back,’ she said.
Mr Boyce then asked if she was suggesting her son only ‘gave as good as he got’
‘They were unpredictable people, my son included,’ the woman said. ‘I’ve known both have been violent.’
Neighbours of Ms McLoughlin told the inquest they heard harrowing screams coming from the Wolvi property before she died.
Suspicions surrounding her cause of death were first raised when doctors didn’t find any signs of an overdose or any alcohol in her system. A coroner has now found her de facto partner likely flew into a rage and bashed her after she told him ‘I don’t love you anymore
Joan Benson said she often heard loud arguments coming from the house, but said the fight on the night before the young mother was found unconscious was ‘very, very overheated’.
McDonald is currently in prison for an attack on a previous partner, and is due to be released on parole in August, 2022.
Alison said she hoped the inquest will lead to a criminal conviction.
‘I want changes to be made because this happens every day. If we can save one woman from ending up like Kirra did, then I’ll feel like I’ve achieved something,’ she said.
‘If she didn’t achieve something in life, well, maybe she’s going to achieve it in death.’
For domestic and family violence or sexual assault counselling call the national 1800 RESPECT hotline 1800 737 732.
For help leaving an abusive relationship in South Australia phone the Domestic Violence Crisis Line on 1800 800 098.
Men who have anger, relationship or parenting concerns can contact the Men’s Referral Service on 1300 766 491 or the Don’t Become That Man hotline on 1300 24 34 13.