Ellie Price spoke of being ‘choked’ by boyfriend in weeks before her death, court told

A woman who was killed in her home, allegedly by her boyfriend, told her mother that he choked her and she feared for her life during a Valentine’s Day holiday in Queensland, a court has heard.

Ellie Price, 26, was found dead in her South Melbourne home on May 4 last year and police believe she was fatally stabbed up to five days earlier. Her boyfriend, Ricardo Barbaro, 34, is charged with murder.

Ellie Price was found dead inside her South Melbourne home.

The pair were in an on-and-off relationship, Melbourne Magistrates Court has heard, and went to north Queensland in mid-February last year, but during the stay Ms Price was hysterical when she spoke on the phone to her mother, Tracey Gangell.

“She said Ric tried to kill her. She thought she was going to die,” Ms Gangell told the second day of a hearing that will determine whether Mr Barbaro stands trial.

“He choked her and they had an argument. She was very, very upset … very, very distraught.”

Ms Gangell said Mr Barbaro also phoned from Queensland and denied hurting her daughter and said he loved her. Ms Gangell said she decided against asking him what happened “because I didn’t want to get Ellie into more trouble”.

Ricardo Barbaro is charged with murder.

The incident came in the months after Ms Price went to police to report Mr Barbaro assaulting her while in her car, when he allegedly forced her head into the dashboard and caused a cut to her eyebrow.

Ms Price’s sister, Danielle, said Ellie and Mr Barbaro both gave her contrasting accounts about what happened in the car. Mr Barbaro claimed Ellie Price slammed her own head into the dashboard, her sister said.

Danielle Price said her sister and Mr Barbaro also gave different accounts of how the hotel room in Queensland was damaged.

Mr Barbaro’s lawyers have raised the theory others might have wanted to harm Ms Price, and the court has heard that a friend of hers, a man in his 50s, accused her of extortion in threatening to go to the police with a rape claim against him unless he paid her thousands of dollars.

Ms Price’s family members said the friend had lent her money but denied she would try to extort him.

“That’s not my sister,” Danielle Price said.

“She would never do nothing [sic] like that. She wasn’t that type of person.”

Ms Gangell said she spoke with her daughter about leaving Mr Barbaro for good.

“She told me she felt sorry for him … because he said that he was going … to see someone about his anger,” Ms Gangell said.

“He was going to change. That’s when I said, ‘A leopard doesn’t change its spots.’”

Ms Gangell recalled seeing fear in her daughter’s eyes when the mother raised the extortion allegations during a video call, and then Mr Barbaro interrupted and told Ms Price to say what happened.

The mother wanted to speak with her daughter when she was alone but Ms Price never returned to see her family in Tasmania because the coronavirus forced the closure of state borders.

“I never got the chance to ask her what happened,” Ms Gangell said, crying.

The hearing continues.

For help in a crisis call 000. If you or anyone you know needs support, you can contact the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732), Lifeline 131 114, or Beyond Blue 1300 224 636.

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