Emma Bates death: family pay tribute to Cobram woman’s ‘biggest heart’ after John Torney charged with assaults

<span>Emma Bates was found dead in her home in Cobram, in Victoria's north, on Tuesday afternoon. John Torney has been charged with multiple counts of assault.</span><span>Photograph: Supplied by the family</span>
Emma Bates was found dead in her home in Cobram, in Victoria's north, on Tuesday afternoon. John Torney has been charged with multiple counts of assault.Photograph: Supplied by the family

The family of a Cobram woman found dead at her home in northern Victoria have remembered her as “proud aunty” who had the “biggest heart of anyone we know”.

A statement from the family of Emma Bates, 49, who was found dead on Tuesday, described her as someone who was always willing to help those in her community.

They said Bates was a type one diabetic, was frequently hospitalised and required a mobility scooter to travel around – but her health challenges didn’t stop her from offering a helping hand.

“She had the biggest heart of anyone we know. She was always helping someone,” the family said in the statement.

“Dropping in food for an elderly neighbour. Giving lifts to people who needed it. The list goes on.”

“She was the crazy cat lady aunt. She had her rescues that she treated like her babies. Her home decor was all cat inspired.”

They said Bates had 17 nieces and nephews, who were her “pride and joy”.

“She would spend hours talking about them to everyone. She had many of their faces tattooed to her leg so she could carry them with her always,” they said.

Cobram man John Torney has been charged with assault and causing injury by police investigating Bates’ death.

Torney, 39, was on Wednesday evening charged with intentionally causing injury, recklessly causing injury, common law assault, aggravated assault of a female and unlawful assault.

He was expected to face an out-of-sessions court hearing late on Wednesday, and is due to appear at the Shepparton magistrates court on Friday.

Police said on Wednesday that emergency services were called to an address on Campbell Road in Cobram, near the border between Victoria and New South Wales, at about 2.15pm on Tuesday. Bates was found dead at the property.

Neighbours were still coming to terms with Bates’ death, with the daughter of one describing her as having “a huge heart, was warm and loving” and telling reporters: “I’m in total shock that something like this could happen to such a beautiful soul.”

On Wednesday evening, police said detectives from Cobram’s crime investigation unit were working to establish the circumstances around the woman’s death.

The Victorian premier, Jacinta Allan, told reporters on Wednesday she could not comment about the circumstances around Bates’ death but condemned violence against women.

“Over the course of this year, we have seen too many women already in 2024 lose their life,” Allan said.

“This has to stop.”

She said governments across the country needed to look at how they could strengthen their legal systems and improve support for women. Allan also called on the broader community to call out disrespect for women.

• In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14 and the national family violence counselling service is on 1800 737 732. In the UK, Samaritans can be contacted on freephone 116 123 and the domestic abuse helpline is 0808 2000 247. In the US, the suicide prevention lifeline is 988 and the domestic violence hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Other international helplines can be found via www.befrienders.org