April Wilmot (pictured) narrowly escaped after her former partner set her mother’s home on fire while she was inside with her family
A brave domestic violence survivor has told how her ex-partner tried to massacre her family by ramming his BMW into her mother’s home before killing himself as he set the house on fire.
Father-of-four and unemployed banker Neil de Graaf, 37, crashed his car into the home in Ipswich, south-east Queensland, in November 2016 while his former partner April Wilmot, then 23, was inside.
De Graaf used jerry cans and a gas bottle to splash fire accelerant around the home and set it alight.
Ms Wilmot, her mother, her teenage brother and his girlfriend barricaded themselves in a bathroom and escaped with minor injuries – but her ex-partner suffered burns to 95 per cent of his body and died in hospital the next day.
Almost four years later, the young woman has revealed how in the hours leading up to the attack she had been pleading with him to take down photos he claimed were of her on a revenge porn website.
She said she had not seen him for a year after breaking up with him, but was drawn back in after being told by a mutual friend of theirs De Graaf was having a hard time.
De Graaf that day had posted a sexual photo claiming to be of Ms Wilmot – but actually of someone who looked like her – to a revenge porn website
‘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 told The Courier-Mail.
De Graaf posted the revenge porn after Ms Wilmot pushed back on his attempts to get close to her again.
He posted a sexual photo of someone who looked like her to the website and captioned the image with the young woman’s name, contact details and home address.
Ms Wilmot had pushed back on his attempts to get close to her again after a break-up – prompting him to share the photo
‘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.
That conversation came just hours before the attack at her mother’s home.
De Graaf was put into an induced coma after sustaining severe burns in the fire and could not be saved by doctors.
De Graaf was put into an induced coma after sustaining burns to 95 per cent of his body in the fire
‘The gravity of the situation can not be understated, to be honest with you,’ Acting Inspector Heath McQueen said at the time.
‘We’re very fortunate today that we’re not standing here with a much worse [result] in that there could have been multiple persons deceased.’
The home’s second storey collapsed during the fire.
The home’s second storey collapsed during the fire and Ms Wilmot escaped with her family after barricading themselves in a bathroom
Ms Wilmot has had to endure four years of therapy to help her move beyond the events of that night.
She warned others in violent relationships the danger signs are not always clear at first.
‘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.’
If you are experiencing mental health difficulties, or know someone who is, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.