Here, Dale, 64, tells the story in her own words.
A￼s my daughter bounded into the house, I knew what was coming.‘Mum, I’ve been chatting to the lady up the road and she said you’re welcome to pop in any time,’ Teresa said.‘Oh ‘have-a-chat’ has been at it again,’ I laughed. It was the nickname I’d given her because she could chew the ear off anyone!
We’d spend hours talking too. So when Teresa, 22, started dating a man named David Bradford, she couldn’t wait to tell me all about him. ‘I’ve met my soulmate,’ she beamed. My husband Glen and Teresa’s brothers didn’t agree though. ‘There’s just something about him,’ Glen said after he met David. ‘Teresa’s happy and that’s the main thing,’ I replied. In time, they moved into a place of their own and had a little boy. But then I noticed a change. David wasn’t working and he barely let Teresa out of his sight. Whenever I called, he answered her phone and refused to put her on. If I knocked, he said she wasn’t in. Then one day, my son Darren came round. ‘There was a removal van at Teresa’s place,’ he said. Just like that, they were all gone. With no way of contacting her, I was beside myself. I knew isolating people from their family was a form of domestic abuse and I was terrified for her.
As the years slipped by, I searched for Teresa on social media to no avail. Then one day, I came across her profile on Facebook. Looking through her photos, I burst into tears. Teresa and David had got married and had three more kids – grandchildren that I’d missed out on knowing.I desperately wanted to send a message, but was worried David would shut down her account if he saw it. So I continued to watch them from afar.
Then one day in November 2016, when I hadn’t seen Teresa for 17 years, my daughter-in-law phoned.‘Teresa’s asking for you,’ she said. Getting her number, I called immediately. ‘I’m in hospital,’ Teresa wept. ‘He strangled me.’ Now living on the Gold coast, she’d been volunteering with kids, but David wrongly accused her of having an affair. He’d bound her mouth with gaffer tape and punched her in the face until she’d blacked out. Then he’d dragged her by the hair. When she’d tried to call police, he’d sat on top of her and thrown the phone away before brutally choking her. Next, David went to the bedroom and returned with a pocket knife, box cutter and some rope, which he said he was going to use to tie her up. ‘I was so scared,’ Teresa said tearily. Somehow, she’d managed to talk him down and David, 52, was arrested and charged with assault, strangling and deprivation of liberty. Thankfully, he was remanded in custody. ‘All these years I wanted to phone you, but I was afraid I’d get a beating,’ Teresa said. ‘I used to look at your Facebook so I could see you.’ ‘I did the same thing,’ I sobbed.
When she was back home, we made up for lost time by phoning each other constantly. ‘Mum, I’ve just found some rope and gaffer tape under the bed,’ Teresa said one day. He’d hidden it there knowing what he’d do to her, I realised. Even more sickening, her 14-year-old son told her that David had taken him to Bunnings a couple of weeks earlier and bought it with him there.That monster had gone shopping for a torture kit! ‘At least he’s locked up now,’ Teresa said.
Weeks later, I finally saw her in person on Christmas Day. After all those years, I had my ‘have-a-chat’ back and we didn’t stop talking. Then in January, Teresa phoned me in a state.‘They’ve let him out,’ she said. David had been released on bail, but Teresa hadn’t even been informed, instead she’d seen it on Facebook. He had a DVO, so couldn’t go near her, but Teresa began looking for somewhere else to live so he couldn’t find her. Too terrified to go to bed, we’d sit up on the phone talking until she felt sleepy. One of the things she was most horrified about was that she hadn’t been notified he was on bail. ‘I want to make it a law so no-one else has to go through this,’ she said. It was just like her to think of others.
One day, I dropped Teresa off at home when she turned to talk to me. ‘If anything happens to me, I want you to have the kids,’ she said. ‘Nothing’s going to happen,’ I replied. Deep down, I was just as scared. But Teresa had a house viewing booked for a few days’ time. She’ll be safe once she moves, I thought. Before she got the chance, my son Darren phoned. ‘Mum, she’s gone,’ he said. ‘What do you mean she’s gone?’ I stuttered. ‘He’s killed her,’ he wailed.This couldn’t be happening. I started screaming. ‘I’m going to kill him,’ I cried. ‘Mum, he killed himself,’ Darren said. That selfish b*****d, I thought. He’d never have his day in court. He’d robbed me of my daughter again. But this time it was forever. Teresa was just 40 years old. I couldn’t take it in.
At the police station, officers told us exactly what had happened. David had broken into the house while Teresa was sleeping and killed her. Then he’d taken his own life.‘Did she suffer?’ I sobbed.‘No, she wouldn’t have known,’ I was told. Afterwards, everything was a blur. The kids came to live with me and we all started going to counselling. A church group delivered home-cooked meals and we watched videos that Teresa had posted of herself on Facebook. As well as the agonising grief, I was just so angry. If he’d been kept in jail, my daughter would still be here. Strangulation is the number one indicator leading to domestic homicide. The police had objected to him being released on bail saying he was in a ‘fragile mental state’ and was at ‘an unreasonable risk of causing self-harm or harm towards others’. Yet he’d been freed to kill. Just two weeks later, my daughter was dead.
Because of Teresa’s wishes to change the law, I found the strength somehow to fight for it in her memory. On February 14, 2017 – the day of her funeral – letters were read in Parliament from me and two other mums whose daughters had been killed in domestic violence incidents. LNP leader Tim Nicholls said that 18 Queensland women died at the hands of their partners in one year. He proposed changes to Queensland law to take away the automatic assumption of bail being granted in domestic violence situations. He said if perpetrators were to be released they had to be fitted with a GPS tracking device. And an alert system should be put in place for victims so that when an offender applies for or is released on bail or parole, they can take steps to protect themselves.
A month later, I was in court when the Government passed the first two laws, but rejected the bid to make it mandatory for victims and their families to be formally notified when perpetrators were granted bail or parole. I was so proud of her legacy, but we can do more. David was on anti-depressants and had repeatedly threatened to kill himself. I want a law that says DV perpetrators with mental health issues should automatically not be granted bail. The kids have told me they’d lived in fear and that David had threatened to kill Teresa if she ever left him. It breaks my heart, she must’ve been terrified.
The charity Hearts of Purple, which supports people affected by domestic abuse, has been invaluable. This year, I plan to become more involved with them. I want men and women to recognise when they’re in an abusive relationship and get out safely. Signs include emotional abuse, such as isolating you from family, controlling your money or humiliating you, as well as physical violence. Please, tell someone or go to a refuge. My grandchildren, now 18, 16, 13, and nine, finally feel safer. I’m so proud of them for how they’ve coped. But I’ll always miss my ‘have-a-chat’.
Read more in this week's issue of that's life!