The children of Gold Coast mum Kelly Wilkinson – who tragically died two years ago – will finally have the fresh start to life they deserve thanks to a selfless entrepreneur’s generosity, the efforts of hardworking builders and the community.
Ms Wilkinson’s three kids aged between two and nine, were home when their mum was brutally murdered in April 2021, allegedly at the hands of her estranged husband Brian Earl Johnston.
The mum’s body was found badly burned in the backyard of her Arundel home on the Gold Coast, with police allegedly finding Mr Johnston near the home a short time later with serious burns to his hands and airway.
Consequently, the children were put into the care of Ms Wilkinson’s sister Danielle Carroll and her husband Rhys.
The couple, their five children and Ms Wilkinson’s three children spent the next two years squashed in a four bedroom home where living areas were turned into bedrooms.
“We sometimes end up with five in our bed,” Ms Carroll told A Current Affair.
Now, thanks to the kindness of businesswoman Tamika Smith, that’s all about to change.
After hearing about the horrible tragedy, the My Bella Casa and Top 100 Women founder who is also a relative of Mr Carroll called on the community to help her find a way to support the Wilkinson kids.
Just days after Ms Wilkinson’s death, Ms Smith launched a campaigned called “I Stand With Kelly” in a bid to build a home for the 10-person family.
She quickly secured some land with the help of an anonymous contributor, before building giant Metricon donated an entire house to the cause.
“When we heard what this family endured, and the fact that Danielle and Rhys were stepping up to grow a pretty large family overnight into a larger family, we were just compelled to do whatever we could to help,” Metricon CEO Brad Duggan said.
A new home built by community
Two years on following what’s been one of the most difficult times in the construction sector, the family’s fully furnished house is ready for its new residents with the family unveiling the property on Tuesday night.
“(They’re) looking forward to the new house,” Mr Carroll said of Ms Wilkinson’s three children.
“And more so it’s theirs, rather than them being in our house. I think there’s always that in the back of their mind so that’s going to be a massive thing for them.”
Mr Carroll added while the couple knew caring for eight children was going to be a challenge, they’ve finally worked out a system to help look after them all.
“It’s been a really long couple of years sort of finding our ground,” he said.
“(But) I think we feel like we’re finally getting there now and this house is going to make it so much easier.”
When asked if Ms Wilkinson’s kids still ask for their mum, Ms Carroll said she’s always in their hearts.
“They know she’s gone, they constantly say that they miss her. The two year old does ask for mum but they know she’s not coming back,” she said.
“We throw as much love at them as we can” Mr Carroll added.
All the kids, including Mr and Ms Carroll’s children have written letters to thank the builders for their new home, with the parents adding they were thrilled to see the end result.
“Even on the drive here everyone was so pumped and when we got here I was like, ‘walk don’t run’ but as soon as that door opened there was no stopping them,” Ms Carroll said.
While the home is for Ms Wilkinson’s children and the Carroll family, it’s existence is also a reminder of the allegedly murdered mum and the love she brought to her family.
“We miss her everyday, but what everyone has done here is wonderful for the kids and the family and we can’t thank everybody enough,” Ms Wilkinson’s dad said.
The start of new friendships
In addition to Ms Smith’s and Metricon’s efforts, Premier Removals helped pack, move and unpack the family’s belongings in their new home.
Leanne Jones from IGA also donated $15,000 in vouchers for the family to use given they spend at least $900 a week on grocery bills to feed and care for everyone.
Freedom also contributed a whopping $25,000 to furnish the new home while the owners of the local Mitre 10 also provided the family with a $5000 barbecue and outdoor furniture package.
And in an added bonus, Hilton Hotels gifted the family with a week-long holiday in Surfers Paradise, buffet breakfast included.
“I don’t know what to say, there are so many emotions coming through,” Ms Carroll said, overwhelmed by all the support.
Earlier this month, the man accused of murdering Ms Wilkinson appeared in court with visible injuries on his face and neck.
Ms Wilkinson’s estranged husband, Brian Earl Johnston, was charged with murdering the mother of three in April 2020.
Police allege Mr Johnston doused his estranged wife in petrol before setting her alight in the back of her home.
During a short hearing at Brisbane Supreme Court, Mr Johnson sat quietly in the dock wearing a black suit with visible facial injuries.
The court was told Mr Johnston had recently hired a new legal team, led by defence barrister Kim Bryson.
Crown prosecutor Philip McCarthy KC said he expected the trial against Mr Johnston “will take somewhere over three weeks”.
He told the court the Crown will be alleging Mr Johnston had a “history of domestic violence … that would include sexual violence towards” Ms Wilkinson during the trial.
Justice Callaghan said the closest available date for trial would be early February next year.
He adjourned the matter to September 11 to allow Ms Bryson to speak with her client about his defence case.
The matter was also listed for pre-trial discussion on November 17, where it’s expected several applications will be made by both the defence and the prosecution as to how best to proceed with the trial.
Mr Johnston, who is yet to enter a plea, remains in custody.
Police charged another man, Bradley Bell, with Ms Wilkinson’s murder after ongoing police investigations into her death.
Police will allege Mr Bell drove Mr Johnston to Arundel home and helped fill up a jerry can with fuel along the way.
Mr Bell was committed to stand trial in Southport Magistrates Court in May, 2023.
He will face Brisbane Supreme Court at a later date and remains in custody.
— with NCA NewsWire