Here, Rebecca Paris, 36, tells the story in her own words.
￼Hearing a car in the driveway, I looked outside to see Mum. Her car was laden with stuff. She’s left Max again, I thought.
‘What happened?’ I asked my mum, Tracy, 55. ‘It’s over and I’m not going back,’ she cried. ‘He hit me.’
I truly hoped that this time it was for good. Mum and my stepdad, Max, had been arguing for years. While he’d been nice at first, Max was a heavy drinker and could get really nasty. ‘I know you’re cheating on me!’ he’d bellow to Mum. But nothing could’ve been further from the truth.
Lately his cruel words had turned into violence. He’d shoved Mum up against a wall and hit her. Every month or so, I’d find Mum
on my doorstep.
‘You need to leave him for good,’ I told her, but she always went back.
That day in June 2014, I left Mum outside with a coffee and rang my fiancé, Dave. ‘Mum’s back,’ I said. ‘No worries, she can stay as long as she needs to,’ he replied.
Together for 13 years, Dave was my rock. Along with our boy, Laine, eight, we were a happy little family.
‘One day, when we’ve saved enough money, we’ll have a big farm wedding,’ Dave always said. My Dave was a real country boy. That’s why, when five years earlier Mum had asked if we could help Max on his farm, Dave hadn’t hesitated to say yes.
After we relocated from WA to Victoria, the first three years had been great. Living 20 minutes from Mum and Max, Dave helped out when he could.
They always got along, but then my stepdad started to act strangely. Paranoid, Max accused Mum of having an affair with almost every man she met. But recently Max had lost his mind.‘He thinks I’m sleeping with Dave!’ Mum told me. Shocked, I didn’t know what to say. ‘Why would he think that?’ I asked. ‘He thinks that whenever I’m here, I’m sleeping with Dave,’ Mum replied. ‘Max said he’ll break Dave’s fingers if he finds out he’s touched me.’It was ridiculous. ‘He needs to get help,’ I said.
Later that day, Dave came home from work with his friend, Don. Along with Mum, we sat in the backyard while Laine played inside.
At 7pm, I heard the familiar sound of a ute coming towards us.‘Max is here. Go inside, Mum,’ I said.
As I heard Max’s ute go up the driveway, towards the backyard, Dave started walking over to where Max would end up.‘Don, go and help Dave,’ I said. Following Mum inside, I ran to tell Laine to hide in the spare room.
Running back towards the back door, I heard a gunshot. Bang! ‘Call the police,’ I shouted out to Mum.
Creeping outside, I could see Dave lying on the ground about four metres away with Don standing, frozen, nearby. ‘I’ve been shot,’ shouted Dave.Still in his ute, Max was pointing a shotgun out of his window, his face expressionless.
We’re all going to die, I thought. But I could see Dave moving his legs. He’ll be okay, I told myself. Hiding, and with a water tank shielding me from his view, I then saw Max get out of his ute and watched Don walk up to him.
‘Mate, you’ve done enough, go home,’ said Don bravely, putting his hands on Max’s shoulders.
As they spoke, Max seemed to calm down. I need to get to Dave, I thought, too scared to move. After what felt like an eternity, Max got into his ute with his gun and slowly drove off.
Running to Dave, I threw myself to the ground. ‘Are you okay?’ I cried.
I thought he was fine until I rolled him onto his back and saw that his white singlet was covered in blood. Dave was moaning but he couldn’t talk. As I tried to do CPR, blood kept pouring from the wound in his stomach.
‘Don’t leave me now. I love you,’ I cried. Cradling Dave’s head in my lap, I could see he’d gone.
When the ambulance arrived, paramedics raced to help, but it was too late. ‘I’m sorry, there’s nothing we can do,’ a paramedic said. When the police arrived they ushered us all inside for safety until they got confirmation that Max had been arrested. ‘How will I tell Laine his daddy’s gone?’ I sobbed.
Thankfully Laine hadn’t seen any of what happened, but he’d heard it all and been left terrified.‘There was an accident and your daddy has passed away,’ a kind officer explained. As my boy sobbed in my arms, I knew life would never be normal again. Mum was racked with guilt. ‘I shouldn’t have come here,’ she sobbed.
On April 7, at the Victorian Supreme Court, Maxwell John Pain, 55, was found guilty of murder and later sentenced to 23 years’ jail, with a non-parole period of 18 years.
I can never forgive him for what he did. While Max might be behind bars, I’ve been given a lifetime sentence of pain.I have to stay strong for Laine, now 11, but each night I cry myself to sleep. I’ll never again see Dave’s cheeky smile and we’ll never have the country wedding we dreamed of. Without Dave, a piece of my heart has been taken forever.
For help in Australia, call the national domestic violence helpline on 1800 RESPECT or 1800 737 732; or in NZ, call 0800 456 450.
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