A court has heard a Ballarat woman was living in fear in the weeks before she went missing and was later found dead.
The new details emerged as the four people accused of murdering Ballarat mum Kobie Parfitt faced court for the first day of a committal hearing on Tuesday.
Renee Reynolds, Brendon Prestage, Shannon Jeffrey and Jacob Ford all appeared on separate video links from custody for the all-day hearing at the Ballarat Magistrates' Court.
During the hearing, which is expected to continue for four days, the prosecution presents its case to a magistrate and the defence is able to cross-examine witnesses. Evidence was heard from four witnesses on Tuesday.
One witness was a former female neighbour, who told the court she had moved into Hickman street in late 2019.
Describing the address across the road as "a drug house" she said during the time her family lived there she had witnessed cars and people going to and from the house at all hours and that Parfitt had allegedly been the victim of family violence at the hands of her former partner.
She had heard verbal arguments and shouting from the house which had prompted her to call police on a number of occasions and one day when she was returning Parfitt's escaped dog - which she said happened regularly - she observed Ms Parfitt to be badly injured with two black eyes.
Though she had not seen the partner at the house in the weeks leading up to the incident she described in one of two statements to police in late 2020, after she saw an initial report about Parfitt's disappearance in this newspaper.
She told the court that about 11am on April 28, 2020, she was sitting on her front verandah having a cup of coffee when she saw a white 4wd, that she had observed before, pull up and park over her driveway.
She then saw the female driver, who she identified as Reynolds, jump out of it before rushing into Parfitt's home.
She observed a woman remained seated in the front passenger seat, who she identified as her neighbour.
"She was mouthing words to me but I couldn't lip read so I went closer to the car," the neighbour told the court.
She said Parfitt told her she was scared as "they were going to put her in a boot" but was too afraid to call police in case "they would find out it was her" who called.
Before she could ask if she could call on her behalf, Ford emerged from the front door and approached the women.
She told the court Ford was a relative of hers, though not a close one, and she "hadn't seen him for a while".
They greeted each other warmly before she asked him what he was doing there. His response was that he was collecting items for Jeffrey and another woman.
She said Ford tried to persuade Parfitt to enter her house but she did not want to.
"She seemed very uneasy and overwhelmed. I felt she was uncomfortable," she said.
So she asked Parfitt inside her home under the guise her children, who were learning from home, needed help with their maths homework and Ford remained by the car "with his arms crossed".
Once she shut and locked the door she asked what had happened and Parfitt told her she was having issues with Jeffrey who was "very angry".
She had just started preparing the coffees when Ford knocked at the door. They sat inside for a few minutes before they all went out the front to smoke but throughout the general conversation Parfitt "sat on the steps, not engaging - she kept her head down and drank her coffee".
After Jeffrey's arrival Parfitt retreated back inside the neighbour's house and sat with the children.
Her neighbour informed her the others were gone and again asked if she should call the police to which she was told no, so she gave her some cash and advised her to walk to the end of the street and keep going.
Yet she watched on her security cameras as Parfitt walked back onto the street and resumed her seat in the car, with Reynolds following and jumping in the driver's seat. Ford opened the gate to the house and the car was driven around the back.
"Jacob shut the gate and that was the last time I saw them," the neighbour said, adding her family went out for a few hours afterwards and when they returned the house was "really dark and quiet".
Parfitt, 43, was last seen alive at a property on Hickman Street, Ballarat, on April 28 last year.
Her remains were found down a mine shaft in Snake Valley on December 22 by officers searching the area in relation to the mother's disappearance.
The woman's partner was also briefly questioned about what he remembered from that day.
A former partner of Parfitt's, who was in a relationship with her from 2016 until early 2020, also gave evidence to the court, detailing how she had been increasingly fearful for her welfare in the weeks before she went missing.
While the court heard there was an alleged history of family violence in the relationship, which escalated between 2018 and 2019 and involved numerous police attendances, he left the Hickman Street home in January 2020.
The court heard the relationship had gone downhill due to allegations thrown both ways about stealing, though despite him leaving the house, Parfitt had been "imploring" him for help around March and April last year.
But in early April he was the victim of a bashing which resulted in serious injuries, and he suspected Parfitt had organised it due to the deterioration in their relationship.
So he told the court he "didn't believe" her continued explanations of her fears and pleas for help.
The court heard this fear was exacerbated by her receiving threatening phone calls from numerous people.
Parfitt sent him a desperate message on April 24, saying she needed "to get out of the house ASAP" as she had been "warned on what's being planned soon" and that Jeffrey was behind it.
This was not the first time she had mentioned being afraid of Jeffrey.
He said he last saw Parfitt on April 25, as she was packing up the house with Reynolds, when he responded to one request to help her fix security cameras on her house.
The court also heard from another witness - a man who described being picked up by Ford and Jeffrey with the belief they were taking him to buy cigarettes, though he doesn't remember the exact date.
Under cross examination by the lawyers for the four accused, he told the court that sometime after midnight the pair picked him up from his home in a white Holden ute.
He was in the back seat of the car that was then driven for about five minutes to Parfitt's house. He was told Jeffrey needed to pick up some of her belongings from the house.
Waiting in the car for about 20 minutes, he told the court he had stepped out of the car and was approaching the back steps to the house when he heard a "loud crash".
He told the court he called out to see if anyone was there and waited outside, before Jeffrey eventually opened the back door and let him inside.
He then walked into the lounge room where a woman, Parfitt, was sitting. He said it was the first time he had been to the house and it was the first time he met her, but described her as being quiet and that she appeared to be tense and anxious.
He rolled her and himself cigarettes with a pouch of tobacco he found on the floor and the two had a conversation in which she revealed that she felt unwell and asked if he could drive her to hospital. She did not appear to have any injuries but was complaining about her kidney.
During this time Jeffrey and Ford were picking up items and moving them out of the house and into the ute, and at one point he helped them with the task.
He said Parfitt remained in the lounge the entire time they were at the house, and that he had also seen Ford speaking with Reynolds while she lay on the bed in the bedroom.
Jeffrey, Ford and the man took the belongings back to his shed to store them some time later, where they were met by Prestage.
The man said he had known Ford for a long time and had met Prestage through him before.
About a week after seeing the news of Parfitt's disappearance on the news, he spoke to police several times before making a statement about the night on January 5.
The four accused have each been charged with one count of murder but are contesting the charges.
At the conclusion of the committal, Magistrate Ron Saines will decide whether there is enough evidence for the case to proceed to trial in the County Court of Victoria.
The Courier will continue to provide updates throughout the four-day hearing.
If you are seeing this message you are a loyal digital subscriber to The Courier, as we made this story available only to subscribers. Thank you very much for your support and allowing us to continue telling Ballarat's story. We appreciate your support of journalism in our great city.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.