In the days before she was murdered by her ex-husband, a young Australian mother of three went to several police stations fearing for her life, but did not get the help she desperately needed.
On April 20, 2021, former US Marine Brian Earl Johnston tied 27-year-old Kelly Wilkinson to a clothesline in the backyard of her home in Arundel on the Gold Coast and set her on fire.
In her state of terror in the days before her murder, Mrs Wilkinson’s visits to police stations were described in official notes as “police shopping”, the guardian australia reported.
In Brisbane Supreme Court on WednesdayJohnston, 37, pleaded guilty to murdering Ms Wilkinson just weeks before he was expected to stand trial.
Wilkinson’s family is conducting an investigation to examine how the system failed to protect her.
On April 20, 2021, former US Marine Brian Earl Johnston tied 27-year-old Kelly Wilkinson to a clothesline in the backyard of her home in Arundel on the Gold Coast and set her on fire. Pictured are Mrs. Wilkinson, Johnston and one of his children.
On the day he murdered his ex-wife, Johnston was found two blocks away in his front yard in a “semi-conscious state” with severe burns to his hands and airways.
A melted plastic drum, three knives and a canvas bag with duct tape were also found at the scene.
A neighbor reported finding her three children, who ranged in age from two to nine at the time, crying in her driveway after the murder.
Two days after his murder, police admitted there had been a “failure” in their dealings with Mrs Wilkinson, who had first contacted them about Johnston the previous month.
In early April 2021, Johnston was charged with four offenses of domestic violence against Ms Wilkinson and granted bail.
In the weeks that followed, she tried to talk to police “almost every day” about her fear of Johnston, her sister, Natalie Wilkinson, told the newspaper. Gold Coast Newsletter in 2021.
She alleged Johnston had breached the conditions of his domestic violence order.
Another sister, Danielle Carroll, said at the time that Wilkinson had told police: “I’m scared for my life, I’m scared for my children’s lives.” We are not safe.’
One day in April, she was turned away by Southport police station on the Gold Coast because she had been told there was no one available to help with a domestic violence case.
Wilkinson then drove to another police station in Runaway Bay, about 15 minutes away.
A police “occurrence” report from the time described his visits to separate police stations as “police shopping”.
Johnston will be sentenced in March after pleading guilty in the Brisbane Supreme Court on Wednesday.
On April 22, 2021, two days after her murder, Brian Codd, the Queensland Police deputy commissioner in charge of domestic violence responses, was asked whether Wilkinson’s death could have been prevented.
“Wouldn’t you love to go back in time?” he said. ‘It is important that we examine the extent to which this is a systemic failure.
‘In the end it is a failure. A woman has died. At some point, she had compromised with the system, with us.”
There were several signs that Johnston posed a potential lethal risk, in addition to Wilkinson’s reports to police.
Days after Wilkinson’s murder, Johnston’s lawyer told reporters that “obviously, no one expected this to happen.”
Johnston will be sentenced next month and will remain in custody.
In court last Wednesday, he did not respond when asked if he wanted to say anything about why he should not be sentenced.
Defense lawyer Kim Bryson said she had agreed with Crown prosecutor Philip McCarthy that March 13 would be the appropriate time for a sentencing hearing.
“There are some factual issues that remain disputed in relation to the background of the relationship… we have been frustrated in our efforts to get out of prison due to the lockdowns that have taken place,” Ms Bryson said.
McCarthy said there was also a factual dispute over Johnston’s motivation for murdering Wilkinson.
Judge Callaghan said he could change the sentencing date if necessary.
Daily Mail Australia reported late last year how a businessman worked day and night to secure a house and land for Ms Wilkinson’s three children.
The children were taken in by Mrs Wilkinson’s sister, Danielle Carroll, her husband and their five cousins.
Brian Earl Johnston pleaded guilty to the murder of Kelly Wilkinson (pictured together) in the Queensland Supreme Court on Wednesday.
Mother-of-three Kelly Wilkinson (pictured) was doused in petrol and burned to death by her ex-husband.
Construction entrepreneur Tamika Smith has launched a community appeal to help build a new home to house a family of ten on the outskirts of the Gold Coast, which they moved into in July last year.
Their new home was built by an army of local tradespeople and volunteers in a project led by Metricon Homes and My Bella Casa founder Tamika Smith, half-sister of Ms Carroll’s husband.
Johnston served two tours of duty in Iraq with the U.S. Marine Corps aviation division, but did not see combat.
He had met Mrs Wilkinson in the US state of Ohio, after his time in the army.
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