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London - The lover of a woman found dead with 37 visible injuries escaped a murder charge despite telling police: ‘I think I killed my girlfriend.’

Duane Ballin handed himself in to officers who later found Tara Newbold, the mother of his three children, dead at their home.

The 29-year-old had been beaten from head to toe and suffered extensive injuries, including broken ribs and a partially collapsed lung. But when a post-mortem examination revealed she died of a cocaine overdose, prosecutors decided not to charge Ballin, 36, with murder or manslaughter.

Instead he was charged with grievous bodily harm with intent and was convicted by a jury on Thursday. Miss Newbold’s family dispute the findings of the post-mortem examination and are angry Ballin escaped being charged with a more serious offence.

They claim Miss Newbold suffered domestic violence at Ballin’s hands throughout their 14-year relationship and was coerced into taking drugs by the warehouse worker. Evidence was found that showed Miss Newbold’s frenulum – the flap of skin between the inside upper lip and teeth – had been torn. A pathologist said this could have come from an object being stuffed into her mouth.

Miss Newbold’s mother, Julie Drury, said: ‘My daughter wasn’t a drug addict and did not believe in drugs. She was the most caring, loveliest girl you could ever meet and always too good for him.

‘I thought he was capable of attacking her violently. I was always worried about that but I always gave him the benefit of the doubt.

‘I’m a mother who has lost my daughter. These past 15 months have been the most terrible, horrific time of my life.’

Miss Newbold was attacked at the couple’s home, in West Bridgford, Nottingham, in the early hours of October 25, 2016. By then she had not seen her family for three months. Relatives claim Ballin was aggressively controlling Miss Newbold. He had apparently cleared out her bank account, leaving her financially dependent.

The relatives say Miss Newbold frequently went to the police, who made five referrals to social services, but Ballin was not charged.

His trial, at Nottingham Crown Court, was told the couple had rowed after Miss Newbold discovered he was cheating on her.

He admitted hitting her with a rolling pin and breaking her ribs, but claimed it was self-defence.

A report by Home Office pathologist Dr Michael Biggs concluded the ‘most likely’ cause of Miss Newbold’s death was cocaine toxicity and that the other injuries were not to blame.

Mrs Drury commissioned another Home Office pathologist to investigate and he said injury could have played a part in her daughter’s death.

She passed the second report to Nottinghamshire Police but it was not enough to make the Crown Prosecution Service upgrade the grievous bodily harm charge.

A spokesman for the force said: ‘A thorough and comprehensive investigation was undertaken and we presented all of the evidence to the CPS, who decide the most appropriate charge.’

A spokesman for the CPS defended the decision not to bring a murder or manslaughter charge.

‘We considered a number of offences before charging this case. However, they did not all meet the evidential test as set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors and therefore were never charged,’ he said.

Ballin was warned he faces a lengthy jail term when he is sentenced next month.

Both Rushcliffe borough council and the police are conducting a review of Miss Newbold’s case.

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