Network story on Tara Costigan.
Network story on Tara Costigan.

Chilling triple-0 call reveals mum’s horror axe murder

WARNING: Distressing content.

A long, bleak silence held the courtroom. Exhibit 9 began to play.

It's the audio recording of the triple-0 call from the day Tara was murdered.

Seconds before, the young mother had been breastfeeding her eight-day-old baby in the bedroom of her home in Calwell, Canberra.

Her two primary-school aged sons were watching TV in on the lounge. Out the back, Tara's sister Ricki and her partner Bryce were relaxing in the garage which they had been using temporarily as their bedroom.

An American robot voice cuts across the courtroom.

'Sixteen thirty-three fifty-three seconds. February twenty-eight two thousand fifteen.'

A male operator - 'Emergency, what address?' Rikki gives it.

'My sister's been hit with an axe!'

'Can you repeat the address for me.'

She does, twice. He wants the phone number. She starts screaming, 'I don't have time, my sister's been hit in the neck with an axe!'

Tara Costigan was murdered by her partner Marcus Rappel.
Tara Costigan was murdered by her partner Marcus Rappel.

The operator speaks calmly. 'Is she awake and talking? Is she breathing normally?' 'Yes, she is!'

'Uh … how did it happen?'

'Oh just can you please hurry up my sister's -'

'We are hurrying, this is all part of the process that everyone has to go through when they call us -'

'No! Don't have time!'

'You said she's awake and talking and breathing normally?'

'Yes, but she won't be for long if you don't hurry up!'

'We're organising a car for you, now can you please explain to me how it happened.'

'It was my sister's ex-boyfriend, come into the house, with an axe!' 'What injuries does she have?'

'She's got an axe wound on her neck!'

'Can you describe it in more detail please.' 'No, I don't, she's hardly breathing, hurry up!'

'You told me she's breathing normally -'

The audio cut out briefly. There were whimpers and sobs from the gallery. The sound of a door being flung open. Somebody cried, 'F***!' Somebody else was trying to keep in a scream.

 

A heavily-pregnant Ms Costigan.
A heavily-pregnant Ms Costigan.

'

The young mother was excited about having a baby girl.
The young mother was excited about having a baby girl.

No, she's not anymore!'

'Okay, you need to take a breath. You need to give me correct information so that we respond appropriately … Can you describe the bleeding for me.'

'No, I can't, I can't, I can't do anything!' The operator tells Rikki that they need to start CPR.

'All right, make sure she's got nothing in her mouth, tell me when you've done that.'

'Oh my God, she's gonna die, can you please hurry up!'

'Yeah, you need to pull yourself together and help your sister. Tell me when you've checked that she's got nothing in her mouth.'

'There's nothing in …'

'Okay, can we tilt her head back and squeeze the nose shaft with your fingers.'

'She's covered in blood and she's on her belly.'

'You need to put her on her back on a hard surface.' 'She's on a hard surface but she's on her, on her belly, I can't move her. If I move her, her neck will break.'

Ms Costigan with her three children in hospital. Picture: Supplied
Ms Costigan with her three children in hospital. Picture: Supplied

'She needs CPR immediately. That's, that's the main thing that she needs. You can't do CPR with her on her belly, you need to put her on her back. Just tell me when you've done that.'

Sounds of horror. An attempt is being made. Rikki wails, 'Why would he do this …? '

Then, the operator's voice - 'Are you able to turn her on her back or you won't be able to -'

'We can't!' cries Rikki. The operator confirms the address. If they have any more information, he says, or if they can turn her onto her back, they should call back.

'You are fully needed on the phone!' Bryce interrupts.

'Do you want me to stay on the line, or -?'

'Yes!'

'All right.'

'We need to put her on her back,' Bryce tells Rikki. 'I can't hold her head and have … we need help …'

The audio is muffled. The operator then says, 'You guys are on the scene, you guys need to help.'

A pause. Sobs. Bryce's voice again, rising with panic - 'I don't know what to do.'

'Is she bleeding from the neck?' says the operator.

'Yes, yes.'

'Are you applying some pressure to the wound?'

'Yes!'

'Have you got something absorbent on the wound?'

'Have you got something absorbent on the wound?' 'Yes! We've got a towel on it,' says Bryce.

Ms Costigan with her friends and family members at her baby shower, a month before she was killed.
Ms Costigan with her friends and family members at her baby shower, a month before she was killed.

'Okay, maintain pressure, don't take that towel away, if it bleeds through put another towel on or something else absorbent. Keep doing that. Um, if you're able to turn her on her back and, and commence CPR then … I'm, I'm here waiting to give you instruction in that.' 'Please hurry up,' Bryce says. A pause. 'How the fuck do you do that?' A longer pause.

Sobs. Intermittent talk between Rikki and Bryce. Then, Marcus Rappel's voice - 'Is she alive?'

'No!' cries Bryce. 'Get out, get out, get out!'

 

Author Heidi Lemon.
Author Heidi Lemon.

 

Ms Lemon’s book.
Ms Lemon’s book.

The operator asks if the person with the axe is still there. 'We don't know!' shouts Bryce.

Muffled audio. 'We can't turn her on her back,' said Rikki. 'We're lucky her neck - if we move her …'

'I understand,' says the operator. Another pause. Rikki is weeping. Seconds pass. Then, Bryce - 'We lost her.'

The sounds. The sounds. For three minutes more, the sounds. Shock warps the air - the air of the house, the air of the courtroom. New voices are talking. A ringing phone. 'Her auntie,' Rikki tells someone. She answers - 'Hello, just come over the road.'

Then, 'She's gone. She's … gone … Marcus came into the house, and hit her with an axe, and she's gone …' Now the ambulance arrives. Rikki cries out to it, her voice broken to a million shards - 'Hurry! Hurry!'

The recording ends.

 

The First Time He Hit Her by Heidi Lemon is published by Hachette Australia. RRP $32.99, available from June 30 in all major retailers and online

Originally published as Chilling triple-0 call reveals mum's horror axe murder



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