Ex-US Marine Brian Johnston appeared to be on a deadly mission when he arrived at the former family home around 6am last Tuesday morning.
Knives, duct tape, rope, an army camouflage duffel bag and a jerry can were allegedly found by police at the scene in the Gold Coast suburb of Arundel – suggesting frightening preparations before he allegedly killed and set his former partner Kelly Wilkinson alight while their three children were present.
The items were reportedly found in the backyard beside Ms Wilkinson’s burnt body, while one of three knives he was allegedly carrying was also found nearby.
Brian Johnston told a friend felt he had no one but his wife and children in Australia
Forensic investigators continued to inspect the Spikes Court property on Wednesday
Johnston, 34, was seen running from the property shortly after 6.30am, dressed in black, bleeding and with one of his arms badly burnt. A trail of blood was seen across driveways down Spikes Court, neighbour Fred Davies told Daily Mail Australia.
He was found by police in nearby Langer Place a short time late, injured and semi-conscious. A resident of that street, Bryan Coates, said a passer-by who spotted Johnston in the street asked him if he was ok, to which he replied, ‘I’m fine.’
Johnston had subsequently been charged with his wife’s alleged murder and breaching a bail condition. Kelly, 27, had earlier sought a police restraining order against her husband.
Kelly Wilkinson and Brian Johnstone lived for a time in his home state of Ohio, USA
Police and SES search along the street where Kelly Wilkinson and her children were living
Johnston was removed from where he was found in Langer Place and transported to hospital
Johnston was arrested in April 12 in relation to a number of crimes he allegedly committed in February this year, reports The Courier Mail, but was released on watch-house bail, meaning he was not required to front court.
It’s believed Kelly Wilkinson subsequently made a complaint about Johnston to a police station before her horrific death on Tuesday morning.
His lawyer, Chris Hannay, told media on Wednesday that he had met with Johnstone on Sunday, less than 48 hours before he allegedly attacked and murdered Ms Wilkinson.
‘On Sunday, I got some instructions from him in relation to some other fairly serious matters that he has been charged with, and I haven’t spoken to him since,’ Mr Hannay said.
He said Johnston did not appear distressed or agitated during the weekend conference.
‘Obviously, no one expected this to happen… everyone thought that they were just chugging along as a normal process.’
But neighbour Benny told Daily Mail Australia of an encounter with Johnston around the time he was told to leave the Spikes Court residence by Kelly a few weeks ago.
‘The last time I spoke to him, I backed out one day and I saw him in the yard and wound down the window and asked, ‘How are you going Brian?’ He said, ‘I’m getting kicked out.’
‘He mentioned there was the chance of him being deported so in hindsight he was in a bad mental state.
‘Now I think I should have hopped out of the car and had a chat to him.’
A fellow marine and friend of Johnston’s said he spoke to the alleged killer about three weeks ago in a call where he expressed concerns about his life in Australia.
‘Last time I talked to Brian his biggest fear was he had nobody in Australia but his wife and kids,’ the friend said.
Kelly Wilkinson pictured with one of her three children during her time living the US
Kelly Wilkinson and Brian Johnston dancing in a wedding day photo
‘All his family was in Ohio and she (his wife) was making accusations against him.
‘He told me he was living in his office and didn’t know what to do.’
‘Brian was struggling with the fact Kelly did not want to be with him,’ the friend continued.
‘He only expressed concerns about how much he missed Kelly and his kids and they were everything to him.
Benny said the family had been at the house for about 18 months but Johnston’s dual cab ute had recently not been seen at the property. Police described him as living at New Beith, a semi-rural suburb south-west of Brisbane, on the charge sheet.
‘He was a normal guy, he loved to talk, sometimes I had to tell him to go home,’ said Benny.
‘We never saw or heard arguments or anything so it was strange. But he was obviously distressed.’
Benny said Johnston had established a successful business on the Gold Coast as a marine hydraulic engineer, even fixing one of the Victorian cruisers that had attempted to evade Queensland’s border closure during the height of the pandemic.
A local Arundel resident, Louise Christie, paid her respects at the scene on Wednesday
Benny, a retiree, said he saw Kelly walking her kids to school every morning and afternoon, bringing along their youngest in a pram.
Tuesday’s alleged attack came seven years after the couple shared photos of their wedding, surrounded by their loved ones.
Other photos showed Mr Johnston holding one of their children next to Ms. Wilkinson during a holiday in the US, and Ms Wilkinson smiling during a trip to Niagara Falls.
Ms Wilkinson’s mother Karen, who died in February in a tragic double blow for the family, had also shared images on Facebook of her daughter and her young family visiting his native Ohio.
She and husband Reg owned the Spikes Court house in which the couple lived before the relationship breakdown.
A GoFundMe campaign to raise money for Kelly’s children had raised nearly $114,000 by Thursday morning, more than double it’s original goal of $50,000.