real life

When I tried to find my childhood friend Lisa on Facebook, I found out she'd been murdered.

Warning: This post deals with domestic violence and could be triggering for some readers. 

The most wonderful memory I have about her was us always holding hands at school and the sound of our giggles.

In kindergarten, she would lick my face and I would scrunch up mine while I secretly lapped up her friendship and sweetness. It was a game, one played by the innocently delicious kids we were together.

We were good friends from the age of five when my mum used to walk us both home from school, right up until my family moved to the ‘burbs when I was 11.

In 1986, there was, of course, no social media or Facetime so, as devastating as it was, we just accepted that once I moved, we would no longer be able to keep in touch.

In no way did I envision that, years later, the reason I would never find her on social media like the other primary friends I was slowly reconnecting with, would be because she’d go on to be violently murdered at the hands of the man she married.

We lose one woman every week in Australia to domestic violence, but that’s just the tip of a very grim iceberg. Post continues below video.

Video by Mamamia

Her name was: Lisa Keem. However, I just knew her as my beautiful primary school friend. She was only 33-years-old when she was killed.

The news of her death spread quickly across the many admiring friends she made throughout her life.

Within hours I had a mutual primary school friend contact me via Facebook to ask me whether I had heard. The effects of her death had rippled amongst all of us in a devastating way, stripping away a certain level of innocence about life and the people we love.

Murder is something that happens in the movies not in real life, I thought, especially not to people you know.

Lisa and I in primary school. Image: Supplied.

Sadly Lisa’s badly burned body was found near Kempsey, NSW on 15 June, 2008. The autopsy showed that she had been strangled and she'd sustained injuries to her chest and face. Then she was dumped in the bush and set alight.

She had evidently been murdered.

An all too familiar story, one I found more detail about from watching and reading news.

A bright, successful, beautiful woman. Lisa had opened her own pet grooming business ‘Foxy Furs’ in Hervey Bay, QLD. She had estranged from her husband, Richard Giardina, a man she had apparently described to friends as having an ‘anger problem’.

I heard their marriage had ended in a bitter break-up, with Lisa telling friends and family she feared for her life.

Giardina had fled the country to his native Italy soon after killing Lisa. He was extradited and charged with her murder. At first he denied, but three years later he pleaded guilty and received life in prison. A 25-year sentence. Sadly he will be eligible to apply for parole after 15 years.

Following her death, I couldn’t stop thinking of Lisa’s mother and sister and how they could possibly still be breathing. For them, I know, life will never be the same.

To this day I look at my three daughters and repeatedly remind myself to savour every moment with them. To never allow myself to take any one of them for granted.

Listen to Mia Freedman's chat with Domestic Violence charity, Rize Up's founder, Nicolle Edwards. Post continues below. 

Luckily for me, I am still in contact with Lisa’s mother and I know that she loves feeling connected to all of those people who loved Lisa at different times in her life. I feel such love for her the way I did for Lisa all those years ago.

So I write this for them, because it’s so important that we never forget the beautiful, talented and life-worthy women that are taken from this world so cruelly and abruptly and simply far too soon.

It’s so vital that we, as women, stand together.  Together we need to ask for more resources, we need to ask for more support, we need to rally for tougher laws and we need to never stop talking about domestic violence until it is no longer an issue in our society. I know my friends and I do.

There is absolutely nothing that will bring back the loving daughter, sister and friend that Lisa was, but I will never let her name be forgotten.

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home. 

Lidija Zmisa is a mum of three girls, wife and freelance writer. She is currently writing a book for middle-grade readers. You can follow her on Instagram

Feature Image: Supplied

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