‘Horror movie’: House rammed, torched in DV attack
Ipswich woman April Wilmot always knew the day would come when her deranged ex-boyfriend would try to kill her.
She thought about escaping overseas with her mother Tracey. She anguished about reporting him to police for fear of triggering violent retaliation. She never stopped worrying.
Now breaking her silence for the first time, Ms Wilmot has told The Courier-Mail about an attempted massacre that engulfed her and her family.
On a Monday night in November 2016 unemployed banker Neil De Graaf rammed his black BMW into Ms Wilmot's mother's home at Brookwater in Ipswich.
Ms Wilmot's former partner carried two jerry cans of fuel and a gas bottle into the two-storey property and used them to set it on fire with the family inside.
Ms Wilmot, then 23, her mother, brother Shannon, 18, and his girlfriend Casey, 18, were forced to barricade themselves inside an upstairs bathroom.
NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CRISIS SERVICES
As the inferno grew the family fled past De Graaf who had set himself on fire and later died in hospital.
"Sometimes I still feel like I'm relaying a horror movie script," she said.
"How does a normal human brain try to rationalise that.
"I just can't even begin to try and make sense of that at all."
The house burnt to the ground. De Graaf died in hospital. The family escaped serious physical harm but the psychic trauma is permanent.
After four years of intensive therapy Ms Wilmot feels ready to talk.
She wants people to know what it's like to be at the mercy of a charming monster.
"I think a lot of domestic violence victims get shamed and blamed, people say why didn't she leave," she said.
"People don't realise that by the time you realise what this person is … it's too late by then.
"My whole relationship with Neil was just me delaying, trying to figure out how I was going to navigate this to make that day not come."
She managed to escape his clutches and went a year without seeing him. Then in a "moment of weakness" she reached out to him after a mutual friend told her De Graaf was struggling.
Almost immediately he tried to pull Ms Wilmot back into his life.
When she resisted he became vindictive.
He posted on a revenge porn website, a sexual image of a woman with a passing resemblance to Ms Wilmot. Underneath he wrote her name, address and telephone number.
"The last time I ever spoke to Neil was me pleading with him, begging with him please take the post down, I don't want to have to go to the police, but you're giving me no choice," she said.
Hours later he launched his premeditated attack.
Ms Wilmot said she wanted to raise awareness about the red flags in dangerous relationships for both men and women.
Ms Wilmot will share her story for the first time on SBS Insight tomorrow night at 8.30 alongside other guests who have had near-death experiences.
Originally published as 'Horror movie': House rammed, torched in DV attack