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Police launch probe over ‘failure’ to protect burned Gold Coast woman

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Queensland Police Service has vowed to make improvements and review its handling of domestic violence cases after Kelly Wilkinson was allegedly murdered by her estranged partner on the Gold Coast earlier this week.

The promise comes after 27-year-old Ms Wilkinson’s charred remains were discovered in the backyard of her Arundel home on Tuesday.

A statement of facts tendered by police to the Southport Magistrates Court on Thursday alleged that neighbours saw flames above the fence height and a man yelling “get inside”.

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Police said they found a melted red jerry can, three knives, a rope, duct tape and other items.

Brian Earl Johnston, 34, was later charged with murder and breaching a domestic violence order.

He is being treated at Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital for injuries, including burns to his airways.

Ms Wilkinson’s father Reg Wilkinson told the Seven Network he was devastated by the loss.

“I love all my girls – no one more than the other,” he said.

“But Kelly, she was sort of like my son growing up that I never had.”

Speaking to media on Thursday, Assistant Police Commissioner Brian Codd responded to reports Ms Wilkinson and her family had gone to police on repeated occasions in the lead-up to her death, to raise concerns over her estranged partner.

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He was unable to say how many times Ms Wilkinson raised concerns with police.

“I’m very confident it was taken seriously,” he said.

“I am aware that Kelly first made contact with police in relation to domestic and family violence issues. In the first place, that often takes a lot of courage to do … police immediately responded.”

He stopped short of describing Ms Wilkinson’s death as being indicative of “systemic failures” surrounding police handling of domestic violence cases.

“We haven’t come to that conclusion yet … but ultimately it’s a failure,” Assistant Commissioner Codd said.

“A woman has died. She’s been killed, we will allege, in horrific circumstances.

“Somewhere along the line, she had engaged with the system, with us, and we were unable to prevent this from occurring.

“We’re certainly going to make sure we look to improve … and correct any parts of the system that we control.”

Kelly Wilkinson’s father Reg with her sisters, Emma Wilkinson and Danielle Carroll. Photo: ABC

Police respond to 107k incidents in a year

Queensland police said there were 107,000 domestic violence-related incidents in 2020.

Assistant Commissioner Codd said police were committed to supporting domestic violence victims as best they could.

“It doesn’t matter that 999 times out of 1000 we might get it right,” he said.

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“Our job is to try to prevent the horrific circumstances that have occurred. On this occasion … we weren’t able to do that,” he said.

“The best commitment we can make, to family, to friends, to Kelly herself, is to accept that, understand that and look as to how we can do things better.

“I think there’s a cultural issue we all have to own.

“Often we will speak about issues to do with domestic violence … in hushed tones, as if they are taboo subjects.”

He urged the community to continue reporting domestic violence matters.

“I would just discourage people from thinking that this is an example of why you shouldn’t come for our assistance,” he said.

“This is an exception. Unfortunately, it’s an exception that’s ended with someone’s life being taken.”

Ms Wilkinson’s siblings and father have thanked supporters for their “donations and kind words”.

Family and domestic violence support services:

  • 1800 Respect National Helpline: 1800 737 732
  • Women’s Crisis Line: 1800 811 811
  • Men’s Referral Service: 1300 766 491
  • Mensline: 1300 789 978
  • Lifeline (24-hour Crisis Line): 131 114
  • Relationships Australia: 1300 364 277

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