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A Perth man, Travis Barnard, has been found guilty of accessing his girlfriend Kim Heptinstall’s phone and making himself the beneficiary of her superannuation fund just six hours after her unexpected death. Heptinstall died in July 2019, two days after being released from the hospital following gastric sleeve surgery, when she suffered a cardiac arrest. Barnard, Heptinstall’s “on/off” boyfriend, logged into her phone and her superannuation app shortly after her death to change the beneficiary details and direct hundreds of thousands of dollars towards himself.

Despite denying the allegations, state prosecutors argued in court that Barnard had pretended to be Heptinstall when he changed the beneficiary details of the superannuation fund, which he had no legal right to do. Heptinstall’s mother and brother also testified in court, revealing that her relationship with Barnard was tumultuous and that he had refused to relinquish her phone even after her death, claiming he was not finished with it yet. When a family friend discovered that apps and photos were missing from Heptinstall’s phone, they sent it to technology experts for analysis before contacting the police.

The jury, which deliberated for less than an hour, reached a guilty verdict on the single charge of using a telecommunications network to commit fraud against Barnard. Following the verdict, he was remanded in custody and is set to be sentenced in June. The case highlights the troubling behavior of Barnard, who acted quickly after Heptinstall’s death to unlawfully benefit financially from her superannuation fund. The manipulation and deceit exhibited by Barnard in this situation have had far-reaching consequences for Heptinstall’s family and loved ones, who have had to endure the anguish of discovering his actions in the wake of her tragic passing.

The conviction of Barnard serves as a warning about the potential for individuals to take advantage of vulnerable situations for personal gain, even in moments of extreme grief and loss. The case demonstrates the importance of safeguarding personal information and assets, particularly in the aftermath of a loved one’s death, to prevent exploitation by those with malicious intentions. The swift resolution of this case by the jury underscores the severity of Barnard’s actions and sends a clear message about the consequences of committing fraud and deceit at the expense of others.

As the sentencing date approaches, the court will have the opportunity to consider the impact of Barnard’s actions on Heptinstall’s family and the wider community. The case has shed light on the need for stricter legal protections against fraudulent behavior, especially in cases where individuals attempt to exploit tragic circumstances for financial gain. By holding Barnard accountable for his actions, the justice system aims to provide closure and justice for Heptinstall’s loved ones, who have been left to grapple with the aftermath of her untimely death and the betrayal by someone she had once trusted.

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