A mother-of-three who was allegedly burned to death by her estranged husband had had earlier pleaded with police to lock him up over fears for her life, family claim – as officers admit the system failed.
It has been claimed that Kelly Wilkinson, 27, visited police on two separate occasions before her American husband, the former US marine Brian Earl Johnston, 34, allegedly set her on fire in the back yard of her Arundel home, on the Gold Coast, on Tuesday morning.
It comes as Ms Wilkinson’s devastated family claim that Johnston was controlling and dictated what the 27-year-old wore, how she styled her hair and banned her from getting a driver’s licence or a job.
Ms Wilkinson had told officers at the Southport police station that Johnston had 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.
Kelly Wilkinson, 27, visited police on two separate occasions before her American husband and former US marine Brian Earl Johnston, 34, allegedly set her on fire in the back yard of her Arundel home, in the Gold Coast , on Tuesday morning
Kelly Wilkinson pictured with one of her three children during her time living in the US
However, assistant commissioner Brian Codd told media on Thursday police did not believe that at the time Johnston had breached his conditions.
‘Contact was made [by Ms Wilkinson] because of suggestions there were breaches of conditions and they were looked at and assessed and it was determined the scenario was consistent with the conditions,’ he said.
REVEALED: BRIAN JOHNSTON’S MILITARY RECORD
By Daniel Piotrowski
The ex-US Marine accused of killing his wife was a corporal who served two tours of Iraq over five years of service between 2005 and 2010.
In a statement to Daily Mail Australia, the Marines confirmed Corporal Brian Johnston was a fixed wing aircraft mechanic.
He was deployed to the Middle East under Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2007 and 2008.
Johnston received various awards including the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon and Marine Corp Good Conduct Medal.
He was last attached to the Fourth Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron of the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.
It has also been revealed Johnston was allowed to walk free from custody after he was arrested on April 12 for what have been described as ‘serious crimes’ allegedly committed between February 18 to 23.
He was given home-watch bail until his first court appearance at Southport Magistrates Court the following week.
Assistant commissioner Codd said an internal review would be conducted and admitted police had failed to protect Ms Wilkinson.
‘Ultimately it’s a failure,’ he said. ‘A woman has died. She’s been killed. Somewhere along the line she has engaged with the system, and we were unable to prevent this from occurring.’
Johnston was charged with murder and breaching a domestic violence order following his arrest on Tuesday.
He was taken to the Royal Brisbane Women’s Hospital to be treated for burns injuries before he was placed into an induced coma.
Ms Wilkinson met Johnston online 10 years ago and shortly after travelled to the US to meet him. The pair married when she was just 18, before separating a couple of months ago.
‘She was just starting to become who she was, who she wanted to be and discover what she wanted, and what she liked, who she could be,’ her sister Emma said.
Another sister, Danielle, said her sibling returned to Australia five years ago to allegedly try and flee Johnston, an ex-US Marine, who followed her Down Under.
The devastated family said it wasn’t until Ms Wilkinson came home that they realised the true extent of their alleged marriage problems.
‘She was such a private person and didn’t want to burden any of us with what was happening and I guess that was her fear of speaking out and people not believing,’ sister Natalie said.
Police and SES search along the street where Kelly Wilkinson and her children were living
QPS Assistant Commissioner Brian Codd said the service had failed Ms Wilkinson
Forensic officers during their lengthy investigation of the Arundel property
Ms Wilkinson eventually opened up about Johnston’s alleged abuse to her mother, who died seven weeks ago, the family told 7News.
‘We only lost mum seven weeks ago and she thought, ‘mum is the only one who knows’, and said ‘I need to speak up and say something now’,’ Natalie said.
Sibling Danielle claimed: ‘One of the last things she was told (by police) was ‘the DVO has been put in place, we just need to give him space’.’
She said she felt ‘complete emptiness’ walking into her late sister’s house on Wednesday night, hours after she died.
‘It’s so hard. Kelly was just so much more than this. For what we’ve been through, for what’s happened, there really just are no words,’ she said.
Kelly Wilkinson’s father Reg Wilkinson and sisters Danielle Carroll, Natalie and Emma Wilkinson said the young mother endured ‘months, years of abuse’
Kelly Wilkinson and Brian Johnston lived for a time in his home state of Ohio, USA
A local Arundel resident, Louise Christie, paid her respects at the scene on Wednesday
Johnston’s lawyer, Chris Hannay, told media on Wednesday that he had met with Johnston on Sunday, less than 48 hours before he allegedly attacked and murdered Ms Wilkinson.
‘On Sunday, I got some instructions from him in relation to some other fairly serious matters that he has been charged with, and I haven’t spoken to him since,’ Mr Hannay said.
He said Johnston did not appear distressed or agitated during the weekend conference.
‘Obviously, no one expected this to happen… everyone thought that they were just chugging along as a normal process.’
Kelly Wilkinson and Brian Johnston dancing in a wedding day photo