Arriving home from school, I hesitated when I saw a strange man sitting with my mum, Linda.
He flashed me a grin and I looked at Mum, confused.
‘Darling, say hello to Jamie,’ she said. Six years earlier, Mum had found the courage to leave an abusive relationship. We’d just moved to Sydney to rebuild our lives. Now she’d met Jamie Walker. He was friendly, so my older brother Shain and I slowly started to trust him. Even though he had no job, he was always slipping us money.
But by the time I was 12, he was changing from caring to nasty. He would yell at my beautiful mum and call her awful names. One day, Jamie started shouting at me. As he charged towards me, Mum darted over to help. Grabbing her, Jamie bashed her on the head over and over. It was horrifying. And after that, it happened regularly.
‘Mum, I can’t live here anymore,’ I told her when I was 14. ‘I’m going to stay with a friend.’ She didn’t want me to, but I couldn’t stay with that monster.
Mum and I would still speak on the phone, and I’d visit when Jamie was out.
‘You need to leave him,’ I’d urge her.
‘I know I do,’ she’d sob.
But as the months – then years – passed, she couldn’t bring herself to get out. When I had my kids, Jaeden and Chloe, Mum would sneak round to give them cuddles. Then when Chloe was 10 months old, Jamie wanted them to move house. Eight hours away, it became impossible for Mum to see us. Speaking on the phone, I begged her to come back to visit.
‘I want to, but Jamie won’t let me,’ she whispered.
I went on to have twins Ebony and Bridget, and then Chelsea, but Mum didn’t even get to meet them. When she’d been with Jamie more than 20 years, I called her on her birthday. He answered her mobile.
‘She can’t talk,’ he said bluntly, before hanging up. I kept trying to call and when I eventually got through, Mum said the abuse was getting worse.
‘I can’t take it anymore,’ she told me. ‘I want to leave.’
‘Oh Mum, finally,’ I breathed, relieved.
So we started to make a secret plan. Mum would tell Jamie she was coming to visit – and then she would never go back.
‘I can help you start afresh,’ I assured her.
So frightened he’d beat her black and blue, she’d speak in hushed whispers. It broke my heart, but I knew it wouldn’t be for much longer and she’d soon be safe with me. Then, a couple of months later, in April 2015, I was at home one night when the police knocked on the door.
‘Your mum’s been violently assaulted,’ I was told.
Jamie, I thought, horrified. They told me to call her surgeon at Westmead Hospital.
‘Your mother has been admitted with brain injuries,’he said. 'How quickly can you get here?'
I felt my blood run cold. Racing straight there, I broke down when I saw Mum on life support. With bruising all over her face, I barely recognised her.
‘I’m so sorry I wasn’t there for you, Mum,’ I sobbed. Doctors told me she’d been bashed so brutally, her brain was swollen and she had haemorrhages.
‘She’s brain dead,’ I was told. ‘I’m afraid there’s nothing else we can do.’
I was given two hours to say goodbye – and then my mum was gone. She was just 51. It was heartbreaking telling the kids.
By then Jaeden was 11, Chloe was eight, Ebony and Bridget were six, and Chelsea was two.
Wanting to be honest, I said gently, ‘Nanny’s boyfriend was a nasty man and he hit her so hard she died.’
Police told me they’d found pamphlets in their home suggesting she’d sought help from domestic violence professionals. They also broke the news that Jamie had waited hours before he called emergency services.
When police spoke to him he’d claimed she’d fallen down the stairs. And when Mum was taken away in an ambulance, he’d stayed at home and cleaned the scene as she lay dying. I hated him. In July last year, Jamie Christopher Walker, 49, appeared at NSW Supreme Court and pleaded not guilty to murder.
The court heard Mum had run from her unit just after 1am screaming for someone to call the police. A neighbour testified that he saw Mum fall like a ‘ragdoll’ after Jamie slammed her to the floor.
But Jamie did not ring Triple-0 until 6.12am. Thankfully, the jury found him guilty. Before we got to see him sentenced, Jamie died of cancer in custody. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about Mum. I wish I could have given her the strength to walk away before it was too late. No-one should have to live with domestic violence. Please don’t put up with it. Please don’t end up like my mum.
If you are experiencing domestic abuse, call 1800 737 732 (Aus) or 0800 456 450 (NZ)
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