Former U.S. marine Brian Johnston has been charged with torching and killing his estranged wife at her home in Gold Coast, Australia
Johnston, 34, from Ohio is accused of setting Mother-of-three Kelly Wilkinson, 27, alight and killing her in front of their three children
Seven years into their marriage, the relationship had broken down and Johnston allegedly, feared being ‘kicked out’ of Australia before the horrific attack
Wilkinson’s burnt body was found on Tuesday morning on the Gold Coast Police were called after neighbours reported hearing screams and an explosion
Brian Johnston was found two blocks away on a lawn in a ‘semiconscious’ state
Charged with murder on Tuesday night, he remains in jail after he was denied bail on Wednesday
A shell-shocked neighbour of an Australian woman allegedly set alight by her ex-husband has revealed the harrowing moment he found her body with her three children crying in the driveway. Kelly Wilkinson’s allegedly was attacked by her ex-husband, a former U.S. Marine who had previously described his fear of being ‘kicked out’ of Australia.
Police found the body of Kelly Wilkinson, 27, at the home in Arundel about 6.40am after neighbours reported hearing screams and the sound of an explosion. Wilkinson’s estranged, American husband Brian Johnston, 34, was found in a semi-conscious state on a front lawn of a home several blocks away.
Kelly, 27, had sought a police restraining order against her assailant, Brian Earl Johnston, before her body was discovered in the back yard of her Arundel, Gold Coast home in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
Johnston, 34, who is is now in hospital under police guard, has been charged with murder in the death of his and violating the terms of his bail.
The neighbor who discovered the gruesome crime recounts that he often spoke to Johnston when he was still living at the Spikes Court address with Kelly and the three children.
‘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.’
Neighbours reported seeing a ‘huge fireball’. One neighbor recalled the moment yesterday when his wife heard the explosion in the backyard of the house next door: ‘There was a huge eruption of a fireball in the backyard,’ he said. ‘My wife heard it. I have hearing aids and didn’t hear a thing.
‘We raced through our garage and there are the three kids on the driveway next door.
‘The children were totally distraught, one of them was in a nappy. There was a huge eruption of a fireball in the backyard Neighbour Benny.
‘My wife said, I’ll take the kids, you go. I went through the house and out the back and saw this huge fireball.
‘I went around the corner of the house looking for the hose because I thought the house was on fire.
‘The neighbour at the back came with a hose too and it wasn’t until we got the fire down that I saw there was a body in there. I rang the police straight away and waited in the driveway until they came, which happened quickly.’
Johnston has been charged with the murder of his ex-wife who was found dead in the backyard of a home in Gold Coast with burns to her body. Neighbors told Police they found the body of Kelly Wilkinson, 27, at the home in Arundel about 6.40am after hearing screams and the sound of an explosion.
Johnston, 34, was found in a semi-conscious state on a front lawn several blocks away. He was taken into custody earlier today and has since been charged withKelly Wilkinson’s murder.
Neighbours told police they saw a man run from the scene injured and bloodied.”He turned up in the bushes in the house next door to me – his left arm was heavily bandaged,” one neighbour told 9News.
Polices allege the suspectn fled down Spikes Court, ran 250 metres along a busy road and headed up a hill to a different backyard.
‘We fed them, clothed them, and then child safety arrived to take them.
‘We still have their dog Riley in our backyard.’
Police said they had found a melted red plastic jerry can, three knives and duct tape in the backyard of the house.
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.
‘He was a normal guy, he loved to talk, sometimes I had to tell him to go home,’ the neighbor said.
‘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.
Benny, a retiree, said he sawAhe didn’t drive. I think they’ve got her a car and her mother was giving her driving lessons before she [the mother] passed away in February.
‘He actually came over and told me that the mother-in-law had died.’
Johnston served two tours of duty in Iraq with the aviation division of the US Marine Corps – but did not see combat.
A fellow marine said he last 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.
‘All his family was in Ohio and [his wife] was making accusations against him.
‘He told me he was living in his office and didn’t know what to do.’
The friend said Johnston had met his wife in Ohio after his time in the military and he understood they had separated.
‘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.
‘He said they were all he had over there. My concern was making sure he knew it would be OK and he was strong enough to get through all this (the separation).’
The friend said he was struggling to come to terms with the allegations against his mate.
Kelly Wilkinson’s body was discovered in the back yard of her Arundel home on the Gold Coast in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Tuesday’s alleged attack came seven years after the couple shared photos of their wedding, surrounded by their loved ones.
Police were called to Wilkinson’s home at 6.40am after reports of an explosion and screams coming from the home.
Johnston was found two blocks away on a front lawn in a ‘semiconscious state’.
He was charged with murder on Tuesday night.
In a strange twist of fate, two weeks before the alleged murder, Johnston’s sister Kelly Kruft created the ‘Help Brian and his Children’ GoFundMe page.
‘I’m Kelly, Brian’s sister. This is all I know to do to help my brother currently since he is in Australia! He needs our help! Please and Thank you! God Bless,’ was the only message on the fundraiser, which did not say why he needed help.
A day after creating the crowdfunding page, which featured a photo of Johnston’s three children, Kruft took to Facebook to plead for donations.
‘We are asking for your help and most definitely your prayers please! I can’t go into details currently but Brian needs his family and friends!!!!’ she wrote.
On Tuesday night, Wilkinson’s heartbroken sister Danielle Carroll lashed out at Kruft for posting about the fundraiser.
Kruft took down her Facebook page late on Tuesday night after being bombarded with thousands of abusive messages directed to her brother, but the GoFundMe page is still active.
A separate GoFundMe was created by Natalie Wilkinson on Tuesday afternoon asking for help in paying for the funeral of her sister.: ‘Unfortunately Kelly has passed away… we are trying to raise money to pay for the funeral, the kids schooling and all other costs,’ she wrote on the page.
The crowd funding has sinnce raised more than $114,853 AUD raised of the $50,000 goal.
Natalie Wilkinson is appealing to friends and family to ‘help the children’ through the difficult period. Several people responded to her post, expressing their condolences and devastation at the news.
Arraigned Wednesday at the Southport Magistrates Court, Johnston was refused bail. Defense attorney Chris Hannay said Johnston likely would apply for Supreme Court bail in the coming months.
Speaking outside court Hannay said he’d met with Johnstone on Sunday, less than 48 hours before he allegedly murdered his estranged wife: ‘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,’ Hannay said.
‘Obviously, no one expected this to happen, but everyone thought that they were just chugging along as a normal process.’