“The family are not angry with police, they can only do what the law allows,” Hayes said. “Obviously, [Emma] was rendered helpless by the assault so even if she passed away from other causes blame ends with him. We hope the outcome of a court case will reflect this.”

The police investigation is ongoing, but it may take weeks before the final test results are received.

Cobram locals lay flowers outside Emma Bates’ home on Thursday.

Cobram locals lay flowers outside Emma Bates’ home on Thursday.Credit: Justin McManus

“As the matter is now before the courts, we are unable to comment further,” a police spokeswoman said.

The wider Cocking family said in a statement Emma, the fourth of seven children, was a type 1 diabetic who used a mobility scooter and was frequently hospitalised.

“It’s tragic that her big heart has led her to a friendship with a man who wished her harm. No one deserves that.”

Bates and her husband, Wayne, had recently decided on a short-term separation, Hayes said. She described Wayne as “very distraught and a much-loved member of our family”. They say Bates was nothing more than a neighbour to Torney.

John Torney when he was released after his trial in 2016.

John Torney when he was released after his trial in 2016.Credit: Sunraysia Daily

“Emma knew of his priors and, before recently, didn’t like him based on what she was told,” Haynes said. “They were warned by letter when he moved in by a relative of his, as were other neighbours.”

Bates’ family said she had “the biggest heart of anyone we know”.

“She was always helping someone. Dropping in food for an elderly neighbour. Giving lifts to people who needed it. The list goes on,” the family said.

“She was the crazy cat lady aunt. She had her rescues that she treated like her babies. Her home decor was all cat-inspired. Emma wasn’t blessed with children, but was a proud aunty to her 17 nieces and nephews. They were her pride and joy and 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.”

Criminal barrister Tim Marsh said based on the complicated nature of the case, and information currently publicly available as of early Thursday afternoon, investigators may have trouble proving intent.

“The elements of murder include, firstly, that the person consciously, voluntarily and deliberately committed an act or acts which caused the death of the victim, that’s the causation aspect, and secondly, that at the time of committing those acts, they did so with the intention of killing the victim or causing really serious injury,” he said.

“The facts appear complicated; at one end of the spectrum, it’s easy to come up with a scenario where we say, person A did a thing and that thing caused person B’s death.

“We could look at stabbing or shooting or beating and we can say prior to that thing happening the victim was in fine health, and person A’s actions caused that death … where it gets more complicated is in these sort of edge cases where there are numerous factors which contributed to someone’s death.”

Flowers outside Emma Bates home on Thursday. A mobility scooter can be seen underneath her porch.

Flowers outside Emma Bates home on Thursday. A mobility scooter can be seen underneath her porch.Credit: Justin McManus

Torney was remanded to face the Shepparton Magistrates’ Court on Friday.

Karen Walsh, a nearby resident who laid flowers outside Bates’ home on Thursday, said she didn’t know the 49-year-old, but she now felt more unsafe after a man was charged over her death.

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“I just can’t believe that this could happen in Cobram,” Walsh said. “I’m just heartbroken with what has happened and just sad about the situation.”

Bates is the 26th woman to die in allegedly violent circumstances in Australia so far this year, based on a tally from the research group, Counting Dead Women Australia.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732.

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