New allegations as police admit ‘failure’ to keep Kelly safe
One of Queensland's top cops has admitted police failed Kelly Wilkinson as more shocking allegations around the young mum's horrific death come to light.
After The Courier-Mail yesterday revealed her alleged killer, estranged husband Brian Earl Johnston, 34, was granted simple watch-house bail on serious criminal charges just eight days before Kelly was burned alive, Assistant Commissioner Brian Codd promised an internal review into police handling of the case.
It came as the nation's leaders from Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to Prime Minister Scott Morrison weighed in over the tragedy which has again highlighted the need for urgent reform on domestic violence laws.
Assistant Commissioner Codd, head of the new domestic family violence and vulnerable persons command, said he believed police had taken Kelly's fears seriously, but acknowledged the system had failed the young mum.
"Ultimately it's a failure," he said in a media conference.
"A woman has died.
"She had engaged with the system, with us, and we were unable to prevent this from occurring.
"I would love to stand here and give you a 100 per cent assurance (that women who come to police would be safe from harm) but I would be foolish and I don't think people would believe me if I said that.
"The reality is there is no one answer."
He said police involved in the investigation were also devastated by the tragedy.
"I can imagine........the investigators and many of the police at the district will be absolutely beside themselves of these circumstances occurring on their patch and their watch."
He confirmed a police protection notice was issued on March 31 after Kelly, 27, found the "courage to contact police in relation to domestic and family and violence" and she had spoken with police on at least two further occasions before her death.
Assistant Commissioner Codd said he understood that people wanted answers over how another Queensland woman could meet such an horrific end after turning to police for help.
"People want answers and they want answers really quickly," he said.
"We want answers ourselves."
He said police would conduct an internal review into the handling of the tragic case.
The Courier-Mail yesterday revealed Johnston, a former US Marine who met and married a young Kelly almost a decade ago, was arrested on April 12 and charged over allegations of serious criminal offences which allegedly took place between February 18-23 this year.
The exact nature of the charges cannot be revealed due to legal reasons, but if proven the allegations would amount to a lengthy jail sentence, raising questions of how Johnston was able to walk out of a police station without facing a bail hearing before a courtroom magistrate.
Kelly later complained about the process to police, but Johnston remained in the community.
Assistant Commissioner Codd said that process would form part of the internal review.
"It's certainly something we will be examining whether the decision-making around that was as fulsome as it could or should have been and whether it complied with the relevant legislation," he said.
Under legislation, police officers do have powers to grant immediate bail, but such instances are exceedingly rare for serious charges.
Johnston had been due to face Southport Court over those charges next Friday, but he remains under police guard in the Royal Brisbane Women's Hospital as a result of injuries allegedly sustained during Tuesday's horrific events.
According to police allegations, he confronted his estranged wife at her Arundel home and set her alight as the couple's three young children watched on in terror.
Flames leapt so high nearby residents could see them over backyard fences.
Johnston was later found semiconscious, carrying a knife sheath and suffering severe burns in a nearby street.
Three knives were found at the home, along with an army camouflage duffel bag containing rope and duct tape.
A plastic jerry, almost completely melted, was also found at the scene.
Speaking in State parliament, Ms Palaszczuk said she hoped 'justice would be served'.
"As the person has been charged I cannot any comment further on that case, but I think everyone in this house shares our deep sadness and our feelings towards the family," she said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison also weighed in, calling the tragedy "unspeakable" and promising increased funding for domestic violence in the looming Federal budget.
"My response is one of profound sorrow - like it would be for all Australians," he said.
"These are horrific and sadly they're not the first of these sorts of terrible and awful events that have taken place.
"These events once again tell us shockingly that whatever efforts we have been making, they can only be further increased."
Kelly is the third woman allegedly murdered by a former or current partner in just two months since the State government announced the formation of a task-force into coercive control.
Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman said reforms were already underway.
"Every woman deserves to be safe and we know that these kinds of issues need attention - that's why the interaction of women with the criminal justice system is already being reviewed," she said.
"Work is already underway with police undertaking domestic and family violence (DFV) response training including training around how to identify and respond to coercive control.
"The Women's Safety and Justice Task-force will report back to Government in October on how best to criminalise coercive control.
"Survivors and our hardworking service providers want us to get this right and support the work of the Task-force."
Originally published as Police launch internal review into 'failure' to keep Kelly safe