The tale of tragic Alicia and the gutless thug
Of all the ways to get away with murder, "accidentally" running over the victim is among the best. If no one else sees it happen, the killer "owns" the crime scene and can fabricate a story to fit a few bare facts.
Friends and family of the late Alicia Little believe that's what happened after her violent, drunken, drug-abusing, lying boyfriend ran over her in his ute when she was leaving him after four years of documented abuse.
The Sunday Herald Sun is not saying he did it deliberately, just that there are some grounds to suspect that
It is no wonder her family believe the system let a killer off the hook with a driving charge.
Alicia, a popular and talented woman who had trained as a trapeze artist, among other circus skills, was killed three days after Christmas 2017, a time of year notoriously the most dangerous for victims of family violence. She was 41.
She was pronounced dead in hospital after being found crushed against a tank outside the house she was leaving.
Her death followed months of rising tension in her toxic relationship with Charles McKenzie Ross Evans, a man with a long name and a short temper inflamed by alcohol and drugs.
Not long before Evans ran over Alicia outside their rented house in Kyneton, he had held her down to bash her, leading her to bite him so he would loosen his grip and let her escape.
It was the latest in a series of ugly confrontations, this time sparked by her determination to end the relationship before he could hurt her any more.
Alicia's resolve to leave Evans permanently was something her worried parents had urged her to do each time she had fled to their Benalla home after his attacks. Once she stayed 10 weeks before giving in to his false promises that he had reformed.
Minutes before her death, Alicia called her friend, Mel Sell (wife of Kyneton horse trainer Mick Sell), who was shopping at Taylors Lakes. The two women had known each other less than a year but had grown close, babysitting each other's children.
When Mel answered the phone, Alicia had said with black humour: "Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and all that s--- …" She sounded a little rushed, but not panicky. They were still talking when, suddenly, Mel heard a "whooshing noise" on the line, then silence. She heard movement for a few seconds, then the phone went dead.
It was only later that Mel realised the probable significance of what she'd heard. That was during Evans' trial when the court was told Alicia had been walking outside to fetch her phone from a vehicle when she was accidentally hit by the utility.
Mel disputes the version apparently accepted by the Supreme Court judge. She says her friend was actually talking to her on the phone when there was a "whooshing" sound followed by silence, which she believes was when the utility crushed her against a tank. She believes the fact that police later found the dead woman's phone in Evans's utility means he must have got out of the vehicle, grabbed the phone, turned it off and taken it, leaving her to die.
Within four minutes, call records show, Evans started making a series of calls (from his phone) in which he clumsily tried to cover his tracks, at one point bizarrely claiming to a friend that Alicia had "committed suicide".
This potentially damaging evidence of what lawyers call "consciousness of guilt" seemed to get watered down in his trial last month. The court had access to police statements from Evans' former wife Kim Bermingham and their daughter, in NSW, who wrote a powerful "victim impact statement" to ensure Victorian authorities knew the sort of man he was.
Evans' daughter calls him "a monster" and "evil".
Her mother describes a drug-using, hard-drinking, insanely jealous wife-basher who attacked her regularly from the time she was pregnant with their first child.
Alicia, a single mother of four, started going out with Evans in late 2013 after meeting him at the Melbourne Show. They had met briefly years earlier, as their respective families worked the show circuit, running amusement rides.
On Christmas Eve, 2014, Alicia called police to the Diggers Rest house they were renting. Police returned four months later. Evans claimed Little was "berserk" and police noted that both had marks and wounds indicating a fight. Alicia Little made a statement to police that day that is chilling, in retrospect. She stated Evans had put his hands around her throat and yelled: "Any dumb c--- that's a dog deserves to die and you deserve to die." Alicia's mother Lee Little and her cousin Thomas came to see her after another assault a few weeks later. She had two black eyes, a split nose and a fat lip and they took her to Benalla. The next day Alicia told a social worker she returned to Evans because she missed the horses they owned together. The warring couple moved to Diggers Rest in late 2016 and to Kyneton a year later. The moves did not curb Evans' violent behaviour or heavy drinking.
"Alicia was incredibly kind and didn't see bad in anyone," her friend Mel Sell says of the woman who was ashamed to admit what was happening to her at home.
The Sells invited her to their Kyneton Cup marquee in 2017 but she didn't come. That night she turned up late wearing sunglasses, hiding a black eye.
She was later admitted to hospital for three days, which Evans lied was because she'd had a "reaction" to something "in the soil".
Alicia "was the single kindest person I knew," recalls Mel.
"But she had a thing for 'fixing' animals and people. She'd want to fix a problem horse or anything else."
Evans seemed polite and well-mannered at first, she said. Alicia's mother Lee Little had never trusted his charm.
"He was too smooth," she says. "Like he had to win you over."
In private, Evans was obsessed with control. He deleted all the photographs on her iPad, as if trying to erase her life. He followed her on her morning walk to spy on her. In 2017, Alicia missed the Littles' family Christmas for the first time ever.
Lee Little worried about her daughter and told her often, "Be careful - we are here if you need us". Their last conversation was about 3pm on the fatal afternoon.
While they were talking, Lee says, she heard Evans stamping around in the background, demanding to know who Alicia was talking to.
When she told him "Mum" he yelled: "Bring your brother, bring your uncles. I don't care. I'm a f---king Evans and I'll go through the lot of them."
The last words Alicia said to her mother were: "I've got this, Mum. I have packed my bags."
Charles Evans was sentenced last month to a minimum of two and a half years in prison after pleading guilty to dangerous driving causing death. Charges of murder and culpable driving were dropped.
MORE ANDREW RULE
The court heard glowing but uncontested "character evidence" in Evans' favour which ignored the fact (according to his first wife Kim Bermingham) that he was sacked several times for drinking, drug-taking and hostile behaviour.
Evans knows people in jail. Not all of them wish him well.
This could explain a prison rumour that, at his own request, he was transferred from mainstream prison to the Ararat prison for sexual offenders last week.
Just another gutless wife-basher wanting protection.