LANELL Latta cared for her son at a psychiatric facility on Sydney’s northern beaches before he allegedly murdered her, friends exclusively told news.com.au.
Friends spoke of Ms Latta’s “beautiful soul” a day after she was found dead in her Avalon home. They said her life had recently taken a turn for the good.
But they said that caring for her son Joel Waszatka’s health was a dark cloud over Ms Latta’s life.
“She was a beautiful person. She’s always been there for her kids,” said Chris Duffy, who had known Ms Latta since school days in Byron Bay.
The 50-year-old was found murdered on Monday morning after police and paramedics were called to her home at Marine Parade, which she rented from supermodel Gemma Ward.
Ms Latta, who ran a hair salon at nearby Palm Beach, was allegedly stabbed multiple times between 10.20am and 11.07am on Monday. Despite ambulance officers performing CPR, she could not be revived.
At 11.30am, police arrested Mr Waszatka, 25, and charged him with his mother’s murder.
He has also been charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm against Geoff Robson-Scott, Ms Latta’s partner.
Mr Duffy, who briefly dated Ms Latta when they were teenagers, said after two broken relationships, she had found personal contentment.
“She was finally happy, she’d found a decent guy and lost weight,” he said.
“She was a full on busy family mum and did everything for her kids.”
But friends close to Ms Latta in Avalon said that although she had found a great house to rent for the family, her son had battled health issues for which he took medication.
One close friend said that like every other parent on the northern beaches, Ms Latta worried about the plentiful illegal drugs – ice, ketamine and cocaine – in the region.
A young woman who was a friend of Mr Waszatka told news.com.au she had spent time in a psychiatric ward at Manly Hospital with him on two occasions, most recently two years ago.
The 29-year-old said they were both “battling” when they were admitted to the hospital but that she bonded with him and regarded him as “a little brother”.
She remembered Ms Latta visiting her son in the hospital each day.
“His mum was always very sweet from what I could see,” she said.
“She came in daily to try and assist but he was always pushing her away.
“I got the impression she was very caring – but Joel didn’t understand.”
Another friend told news.com.au that Ms Latta’s son Levon and daughter Bek were distraught with grief following their mother’s death.
Friends of Ms Latta from Byron Bay, the northern NSW town where she and her two sisters spent part of their youth, were also grieving for the loss of their “angelic” friend.
Ms Latta, whose father Frank was a well-known local surfing legend, grew up in Byron as a “struggle town kid” when it was a working class town known for dairy farming and the abattoir.
Mr Duffy said Ms Latta “loved the beach” and was an artistic soul whose mother Dianna worked as a real estate agent.
He said Ms Latta had tried to teach her children to be good people, and was getting on with life with her partner and her salon business when the tragedy occurred.
The young woman who spent time with Joel in the mental health facility at Manly said they were both had been “so unwell” in the ward.
“If anything we helped each other out because we were trying to understand what was going on. He was like a little bro to me when we were in the ward. It was a pretty sensitive time.”
They bonded because they were both going through the same thing.
She wasn’t entirely sure of the circumstances that led to Waszatka being admitted to hospital.
A lasting memory of him from the hospital was his constant desire to leave and feeling frustrated that he couldn’t.
Her sister called her this morning to tell her about Mr Waszatka’s arrest. She knew at once what happened.
The last time she saw him was several months ago on the street in Avalon. They only spoke briefly but she could see he was struggling.
She said there was “obviously more” to what allegedly happened but was sharing her knowledge of Waszatka’s experience to shed light on mental health.
“I don’t really care what people think. I think people need to speak out more and be real and honest about our emotions and have an awareness of mental illness and how it affects everyone.”
Mr Waszatka was due to appear in Manly Local Court on Tuesday morning charged with murder and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
Mr Waszatka did not come up from the cells as his charges were briefly mentioned.
His Legal Aid lawyer did not apply for bail on his behalf and it was formally refused.
Mr Waszatka will be held in custody until September 26, when he will appear by audiovisual link at Sydney’s Central Local Court.