‘This wasn’t the first time’: Kelly’s heartbroken family reveal her life of fear

The family of slain mother-of-three Kelly Wilkinson say she was “just beginning to flourish” before she was set alight and and left to die in her own backyard on the Gold Coast.

Apr 23, 2021, updated Apr 23, 2021
Kelly Wilkinson and her alleged killer, estranged husband Brian Earl Johnston, on their wedding day (Photo: Supplied)

Kelly Wilkinson and her alleged killer, estranged husband Brian Earl Johnston, on their wedding day (Photo: Supplied)

The 27-year-old’s estranged husband Brian Earl Johnston has been charged with murder and breaching bail conditions following the alleged attack on Tuesday.

Police say the 34-year-old is also facing a range of other serious charges.

The couple married and lived together in the US after meeting online, but Wilkinson left the relationship and resettled in the Gold Coast. Johnston later followed her to Australia.

Wilkinson twice went to a police station on or before April 11 to raise concerns about her safety.

She also reached out to domestic violence support services, who contacted the police on her behalf two days later to reiterate how fearful she was.

“This wasn’t an accident. This wasn’t the first time something’s happened,” her sister Danielle Carroll told Seven News.

Wilkinson’s devastated father Reg called on the Queensland government to bring in stronger laws to protect domestic violence victims.

He said perpetrators of violence need to be imprisoned as soon as possible and before they can do harm.

“Put them jail straight away,” he told Seven.

“You know, it’s only to protect the person, and if they’re saying they need protection, give them protection.”

State Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman has already asked a special task force for recommendations on criminalising coercive control, due in October, and on reforming the justice system for women, due in March.

But Opposition spokeswoman for women Amanda Camm says women at risk can’t afford to wait that long and the government must set clear time frames for reform.

“How many more times can we say, ‘enough is enough’? I’m tired of saying ‘enough is enough’ because it is enough,” she told reporters.

“How many more women are going to lose their lives? How many more children will be motherless and through the most horrid of circumstances in which victims are losing their lives?”

Federal Assistant Minister for Women Amanda Stoker said the criminal justice system was clearly not delivering for victims.

“These are not mere family concerns, these are cases of murder and we need more from our criminal justice system to make sure that people … don’t continue to end this way,” she told Nine Network on Friday.

Carroll said her sister Kelly’s death was even more agonising because she was just starting to flourish as a person.

She said Wilkinson never had a driver’s licence or access to money.

“She was finally coming forward and saying something,” Carroll said.

“She could finally dress how she wanted, she could finally speak how she wanted.

“She was finally just starting to get glimpses of that happiness within.”

The Wilkinson family have set up a Go Fund Me page to help pay for funeral costs and support Kelly’s three children.

Carroll plans to raise the children alongside her own five, but Mr Wilkinson said his daughter’s horrific death has put stress on the entire family’s finances.

“Any help is appreciated, whatever it be,” he said.

“We’re just trying to keep the children, make sure that they’re safe.”

Assistant Commissioner Brian Codd, who heads Queensland Police’s new domestic violence task force, has promised an internal police review to determine if any systemic failures contributed to the 27-year-old’s death.

Police would never be able to prevent every domestic violence death, but any death was a failure. “She engaged with the system, with us, and we were unable to prevent this from occurring,” he said.

News of the internal review has enraged Women’s Legal Services Queensland, with CEO Angela Lynch demanding an independent investigation.

“There were numerous serious and direct warning signs of escalating violence. This should have been ringing deafening alarm bells,” Lynch said on Friday.

“The idea that the police should investigate this horrific failure of the system themselves is absurd.”

She’s also demanding an urgent review of bail laws after police revealed Johnston was given watch-house bail on the other charges he was facing. Those charges cannot be detailed for legal reasons.

Police say they first learned of Wilkinson’s fears about her safety in late March when she told officers of treatment that spanned “weeks, and months”.

She twice went to police stations on or before April 11 and reached out to domestic violence support services, who contacted police on her behalf two days later.

On Thursday, police said they were not aware of reports support workers had arranged a second meeting to advocate for Ms Wilkinson. She died before that could happen.

A Go Fund Me campaign to help the family pay for Ms Wilkinson’s funeral and other costs has so far raised more than $165,000.

Local News Matters

We strive to deliver the best local independent coverage of the issues that matter to Queenslanders.

Copyright © 2024 InQueensland.
All rights reserved.
Privacy Policy