The family of Teresa Bradford is furious Queensland’s legal system failed to protect her from being murdered by her violent ex-partner and has called for urgent change.
The mother-of-four was killed by David Bradford, who had been released from custody on bail, when he broke into her Gold Coast home while she was sleeping on January 31.
After killing her, Bradford committed suicide.
“[The legal system] immensely, immensely failed. I’m beyond angry,” her brother Darren O’Brien told 7.30 in an exclusive interview.
“The Government needs to change the way they do things to save lives.”
Teresa’s sister-in-law, Narelle O’Brien, said it was unacceptable Bradford had been given bail by the Gold Coast’s specialist domestic violence court in January. The police had opposed bail.
“It’s disgusting, I don’t know how they can justify it. Obviously he was a danger to the public. Why was he allowed out? I just don’t understand the system,” Ms O’Brien said.
Call for perpetrators to have mental health checks
Teresa’s murder sparked widespread outrage and a number of community events were held in her memory, including a candlelight vigil where people called for change.
In March the Queensland parliament passed sweeping reforms including a law that a survivor of domestic violence must be notified if their perpetrator is released, something that failed to happen with Teresa.
But her family said it was not enough and are calling for compulsory mental health checks for perpetrators.
“We want Teresa’s Law, which is that all offenders get mental health checks before they’re even considered for bail,” Mr O’Brien said.
Bradford was on anti-depressant medication, had repeatedly threatened to kill himself, and had checked into a Gold Coast hospital after an earlier attack on Teresa. He had suffered a series of strokes and was unable to work.
“If they’re at risk of committing suicide or offending or have any sort of mental health issue going on there, then they should automatically not be granted bail or put into a hospital until they go to court,” Ms O’Brien said.
Teresa’s family want improved co-ordination between the domestic violence court, support services and police to ensure a similar situation never happens to a woman needing protection again.
In the weeks before she was murdered, Teresa told her family she was living in fear and knew her estranged husband would try to kill her.
“She was just so scared, she said, ‘He’s going to come and get me, he’s going to [try and] kill me again,” Ms O’Brien said.
“‘I don’t know what to do, no one’s helping me, I feel all alone.'”
The ABC has obtained a text message exchange between Teresa and Ms O’Brien after Teresa learned Bradford was free.
“He has bail. Goes back 21/3/17 to face charges,” Teresa wrote.
Ms O’Brien responded, “That’s just rediculous (sic).”
“Yep just losing it … right now,” Teresa said.
“Stay strong your (sic) a lot stronger then u think u will get through this,” Ms O’Brien said.
“I will as soon as someone reassures me that me and my children are safe,” Teresa said.
Teresa knew she was in grave danger
Authorities had a clear warning Teresa was in danger because Bradford had been in custody since attacking his wife in November.
During that attack he punched her until she passed out, and when she woke up Bradford choked her. He also used gaffer tape, rope, a knife or box cutter and threatened to kill her.
Teresa’s brother believed the attack had been carefully planned.
“We helped them clean the house [after the November attack],” he said.
“[Teresa’s son] advised he’d actually gone to Bunnings with his father a week earlier [and] he had bought the rope and the duct tape and clear piping which he made the strangling device with.
“I’m finding knives hidden around the house and axes, mostly in the bedroom where he was trying to get her to go.
“That’s when it hit home to all of us, even the kids, that this was premeditated.”
7.30 understands it was not the first time Bradford had been physically violent, although it was the first time Teresa went to the police.
Tension had been increasing in the Bradford household after Teresa told her husband she wanted their marriage to end in August.
She was so concerned for her safety she set up a private Facebook group she called “News on Teresa” to keep close friends and family informed about her welfare.
Ms O’Brien said Teresa knew she was in grave danger.
“When he was released she wasn’t told about it [by the court],” Ms O’Brien said.
“She rang us in in tears saying, ‘I’ve just been told by somebody that he’s out.'”
“Her kids stayed with us for two days while she went down to the police station to try and get some information and then she stayed with a friend.”
‘They’re not really helping me’
Teresa scrambled to find new rental accommodation but told Ms O’Brien she was getting knocked back.
“She said, ‘Nobody is helping me. I’m trying to find a rental and I can’t get one because I’m a single mum.’
“She said, ‘The domestic violence support people, they ring me every now and then but they’re not really helping me.’
“So she’s had all these things that were letting her down, she couldn’t get out of the house quick enough. They should have kept him locked up until she got out of the house.”
She sought help from the domestic violence service DV Connect but didn’t want to uproot her children by putting them in a refuge.
“We followed up with Teresa … three days before she died,” DV Connect CEO Di Mangan said.
“We offered to put her and the children in a refuge, get them out immediately [but] she said that she was tired of running.
“The worker spent nearly an hour on the phone with her talking through what she thought she might do. She talked about real estate, looking to relocate her and our worker assured her that she didn’t have to wait for any lease to be up, that with domestic violence she could break that lease now.
“I don’t know what else we could have done. My one regret is that she didn’t realise she could phone us back.”
‘Could I have done more?’
Ms O’Brien said she is consumed by lingering doubts.
“I find myself sometimes sitting and going through all of her messages and it just makes me so angry,” she said.
“She was reaching out for help and I couldn’t do any more and now I think, ‘Could I have done more?’
“It’s hard to read through her messages knowing that she’s not going to send me any more.”
Mr O’Brien paid tribute to the love Teresa had for her four children and has vowed to ensure they’re looked after.
“All four of them are amazing kids. With what she’s had to put up with over the years she’s done the best job with all four of them.
“I’m just so proud. I just wish I could be half the father that she was a mother.”
A spokesperson for Queensland Police said it would be inappropriate to comment as the deaths of Teresa and David Bradford were the subject of a coronial investigation.
Family and domestic violence support services:
- 1800 Respect national helpline:
1800 737 732
- Women’s Crisis Line:
1800 811 811
- Men’s Referral Service:
1300 766 491
- Lifeline (24 hour crisis line):
- Relationships Australia:
1300 364 277
This post originally appeared on ABC News.
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