Man found not guilty of murdering toddler Nikki Francis-Coslovich denied bail over alleged bashing

John Torney, pictured at an earlier court appearance, has been refused bail in the Mildura Magistrates' Court.

John Torney, pictured at an earlier court appearance, has been refused bail in the Mildura Magistrates' Court.

THE man found not guilty of murdering toddler Nikki Francis-Coslovich is now in custody, accused of brutally bashing his de facto partner.

John Torney, 33, was refused bail in the Mildura Magistrates’ Court yesterday.

He faces charges including intentionally causing injury, unlawful assault, making a threat to inflict serious injury and impersonating a police officer.

The court heard Torney’s three-month relationship had become increasingly violent leading up to last month, when he is alleged to have punched his partner to the face, threatened to set her on fire and dragged her up a hill by her hair.

The attacks left the woman with injuries including a broken nose and a fractured eye socket.

Torney’s lawyer Rebecca Boreham said he intended to contest the charges.

Torney was found not guilty of murdering two-year-old Nikki Francis-Coslovich by a Supreme Court jury a year ago today.

During that trial, Torney admitted putting the child’s body in the roof of an Oram Court house in August 2015 but denied killing her.

Yesterday, the court heard he assaulted his partner last month at a caravan where he had been living in Robinvale.

Mildura police Constable Kady Moore gave evidence, saying the victim did not report an alleged assault on October 19 to police out of fear.

She said Torney assaulted the woman again two days later, grabbing her by the throat and then throwing a jerry can full of petrol at her while she was in his caravan, before he threatened to set the caravan alight. Police attended the scene but were unable to find Torney.

The court heard when the victim returned to the caravan park to collect some of her property, as she had arranged to do with Torney’s mother Belinda, he knocked her to the ground, punched her to the face and dragged her up a hill by her hair.

Constable Moore said the woman refused to explain her injuries while Torney was present, telling them she had fallen from a motorbike.

Torney and his mother later contacted the victim by phone and asked her to return to Robinvale by bus.

Photos of Torney’s phone, showing several messages exchanged with the victim and one of her friends, along with a list of outgoing calls, were tendered to the court.

The court heard on one occasion Torney left a message purporting to be a Mildura police officer.

Police opposed bail, arguing there was a risk Torney would attempt to locate the victim and that he had previously breached bail conditions.

Ms Boreham said Torney did not know where the victim was and that in the 17 days he had already been in custody, none of his family members had contacted the woman.

She said Torney’s criminal history was modest and that even if convicted of the most serious charge, he would not necessarily be sentenced to a jail term.

Ms Boreham proposed Torney be bailed to his mother and stepfather’s Robinvale home, with reporting conditions, a curfew and a requirement he abstain from alcohol.

The court heard Torney’s employer was also hopeful he would be bailed, enabling him to resume work as a woodcutting contractor.

However magistrate Gregory McNamara refused to release Torney, saying the police case suggested he had the “capacity for some violence and aggression”.

Torney was remanded to appear in court again later this month.

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