Another horror narrowly avoided as police stop man setting family alight

A man who allegedly doused the family dog, his house and himself in petrol and threatened to set his family alight is the latest potentially horrific domestic violence incident on the Gold Coast, with police describing it as a “miracle” that no-one was killed.

Apr 27, 2021, updated Apr 27, 2021
The family of Kelly Wilkinson depart a vigil for murdered mother on the Gold Coast,.  . (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

The family of Kelly Wilkinson depart a vigil for murdered mother on the Gold Coast,. . (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

The man’s partner and three adult children escaped unharmed, along with the dog, as police prevented the house turning into an inferno at O’Reilly Drive Coomera around 9:30pm Sunday.

Police were forced to make an emergency declaration over the alleged domestic violence incident. The public emergency declaration was lifted after police tackled the man and arrested him before he could set himself and the house alight.

The 43-year-old man faced Southport Magistrates Court this morning on charges of wilful damage, and domestic violence charges including contravention of a domestic violence order, choking suffocation and strangulation in a domestic setting, domestic violence-related common assault, deprivation of liberty and acts intended to cause grievous bodily harm or transmit serious disease as a domestic violence offence.

There was no application for bail. His case will return to the same court on May 11 for a committal mention.

Acting Chief Superintendent Geoff Sheldon said the man’s family escaped without being harmed.

“It’s a miracle we’ve all come out of it alive,” Sheldon said.

“We negotiated with him and after negotiations a short tactical action was taken and he was taken into custody. Thank goodness it all ended well with no-one injured.”

Sheldon said the confronting scene was the latest in a string of alleged domestic violence atrocities on the Gold Coast.

“It’s one of those things where once a house is doused in petrol, even once it’s been cleared, it’s very dangerous with the fumes and the vapours. So it was quite a scene to manage.

“It was out and out brave action by our officers taking him into custody – trying to tackle someone who’s doused in petrol while he’s got a lighter in his hand trying to light it.

“It was a great end to what could have been a very, very tragic event.”

The incident comes as hundreds attended a candlelit vigil Monday night to mourn domestic violence victim Kelly Wilkinson.

The 27-year-old mother-of-three was allegedly burned to death last week by her estranged husband, while her three children, all aged under nine years, were inside the house. Her body was discovered in the backyard of her home.

Wilkinson’s ex-husband and former US marine, Brian Earl Johnston, 34, has been charged with murder and breaching a court order. Johnston was found by police two blocks away from Wilkinson’s home. He was suffering burns to his hands and airways.

A police search of Wilkinson’s Arundel property found a melted red jerry can, duct tape, a rope, three knives, and other items, according to the court documents.

Queensland Assistant Police Commissioner Brian Codd said Wilkinson had previously reported “domestic violence and family issues,” to police but did not confirm how many times she had asked for help.

The Queensland Police Service is conducting an internal review to examine any potential failings in its interactions with Wilkinson.

In a statement read at the candlelight vigil, the family described Wilkinson as devoted to her children and “one of a kind”.

“The third of four girls, Kelly stood out as a protector and one who was never afraid to push boundaries. The kind of woman who went from riding motorbikes on cliffs to wearing dresses and flaunting her favourite jewellery,” the family’s statement said.

“She made everyone fall in love with her antics. Kelly was one of a kind and there are no words that can describe how much she is missed and the hole she has left within our lives.”

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