A candlelit vigil held less than a kilometre from where Kelly Wilkinson died, allegedly at the hands of her former partner, heard that her death should be a line in the sand moment for changes to domestic violence laws.
Around one thousand people gathered on the Gold Coast Titans training ground at Parkwood on the northern Gold Coast on Monday night to pay silent tribute to the mother-of-three, who was found in the backyard of her Arundel home on the morning of April 20.
Attendees wore green – Kelly’s favourite colour – and carried scented candles, gathering as the sun was setting and a full moon was rising on a cool Autumn evening on the Gold Coast.
The Wilkinson family arrived at the candlelit vigil, father Reg (centre) with his arm around daughter Danielle, who has taken over care of Kelly Wilkinson’s three children.
Father Reg Wilkinson with daughters Emma (left) and Danielle (centre) and son-in-law Rhys
Kelly Wilkinson was found dead at her home on the morning of April 20, nearby to the location of tonight’s candlelit vigil
Some people brought inflatable green balloons which were released at the end of the vigil, while others carried sunflowers – Ms Wilkinson’s favourite flower.
As a guitarist played acoustic versions of Ed Sheeran’s ‘Perfect’ and Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’, Ms Wilkinson’s family arrived and made their way to a row of white chairs at the front, her father Reg in tears as he trailed his daughters Natalie and Emma, his arm around daughter Danielle.
Shane Scott, Chaplain at the Arundel State School where Ms Wilkinson’s children attended, offered a special message to children who attended. ‘It’s normal to have these feelings when sad things happen, it shows you care,’ he said.
Rosie O’Malley, CEO of the Gold Coast-based Domestic Violence Prevention Centre, who Kelly had spoken with in the days and weeks preceding her death, recited frightening statistics on domestic violence and spoke passionately about the need for the community to notice signs of domestic violence and speak up,
Queensland Police officers attended the vigil along with members of the Brisbane Broncos and Gold Coast Titans
Those attending the vigil wore green because it was Kelly Wilkinson’s favourite colour
‘Please believe her when she says she’s feeling threatened or afraid,’ she said. ‘And ask if there’s anything you could do to make things better.’
Sam O’Connor, State MP for the area, who helped organise the vigil, said: ‘To lose another woman this way is a stain on our community and our city. I will make sure this tragedy leads to change. This must stop.
He also delivered a message from Kelly’s family which recalled how much she loved being a mother. ‘She was a strong, fierce woman with an enormous heart. She would help others. The third of four children, she was a protector… and she made everyone fall in love with her antics.’
‘We’re here because we’re good friends with [Kelly’s] sister Danielle, we go to the gym together,’ Kirsty from Robina told Daily Mail Australia after the vigil. ‘The fact the family has recently lost their mother and now their sister, it’s heartbreaking. Our hearts are breaking for them.’
‘I just hope there’s change, it cannot keep going on like this.’
Michelle, Chelsea and Stefanie attended because they knew the Wilkinson girls, including Kelly, as children, attending Coastal Dance School with them at Currumbin on the Gold Coast.
‘We spent hours together week after week. We were very close about 10 years ago,’ said Michelle.
She said she did not understand why the Gold Coast had seen so many domestic violence episodes against women in recent years.
‘It just too late now, isn’t it?’ she said. ‘As her friend said on the stage tonight, if only we could have done something. How do you stop something that has been going on for years now?’
Around 1000 people attended the candlelit vigil for Ms Wilkinson on Monday night
The Arundel community had expressed shock at the death of the local mother of three
A number of those attending the vigil took the opportunity to contribute to the fund established to help raise Kelly’s three children, which totalled more than $215,000 on Monday night.
Ms Wilkinson is believed to have visited police on two separate occasions before her American husband, a former US marine, allegedly set her on fire in the backyard of her home.
Her devastated family claim Johnston was controlling and dictated what the young mother wore, how she styled her hair, and banned her from getting a driver’s licence or a job.
Ms Wilkinson told officers at Southport Police Station that Johnston breached a March 29 domestic violence order, police said.
She then asked for help from a domestic violence agency on April 13, just one week before she was allegedly burned to death.
Last week Assistant Commissioner Brian Codd committed to an internal review of the circumstances surrounding Ms Wilkinson’s death, and said the service had ‘ultimately failed’ the 27-year-old,
The Gold Coast area had seen a number of deaths from domestic violence in recent years.
Local MP Sam O’Connor told the crowd Kelly’s death was a stain on the community and the city
Fabiana Palhares was bludgeoned to death by her ex-partner at Varsity Lakes in February 2015.
Tara Brown was beaten to death with a fire hydrant by her ex-partner at Molendinar in September 2015 and in the same month, Karina Lock was shot in the head by her estranged husband Stephen at a McDonald’s at Helensvale.
Melinda Horner was also killed by her partner in a murder-suicide at Burleigh Waters in November 2015.
Queensland Police said there were 107,000 domestic violence-related incidents in the state last year.
‘There’s 79,000 domestic and family violence orders existing in Queensland right now, and of those five out of 6 don’t breach, there’s no issue,’ Queensland Police Assistant Commissioner Brian Codd told ABC Radio this morning.
‘There’s a subset of highly violent, threatening people who we take action against and arrest and they’re in custody.
‘The trick here is, how do we get it 100 per cent right?’
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