Monster- in-law

My hubby's brother was hiding a sinister secret...

Published by: Amy Thompson and Kim Willis
Published on: 12th July 2010

Sun, sea and sand… it was all waiting for me the minute I stepped off the plane in Australia with my new fella Dave, and my two kids Jason, six, and Tabitha, four.
Sadly, so were my new in-laws.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I had anything against them – far from it. No, the real problem was they didn’t like me.
Not that I could blame them at all. You see Dave, who was two years younger than me, was my ex-hubby Tom’s nephew.
When he’d come over to stay with us in Surrey while he was travelling, we’d fallen in love.
Luckily, Tom had been more than understanding. Instead of knocking Dave into next week like most blokes would have done, he’d stayed calm and agreed to a quick divorce for the kids’ sake. And we’d stayed friends.
Now, though, seeing Dave’s mum Maureen and his five younger brothers and sisters lined up at the airport waiting for us, I knew my luck had run out.
I gulped as I took a step towards them, Maureen’s steely glare slicing through me.
‘Come on,’ she snapped. ‘The car’s parked over there.’
Even when Maureen had just been my sister-in-law, we’d never seen eye to eye. And she made no pretence that becoming my mother-in-law was about to change that.
Like it or not, we were family and I was determined to make it work, especially when our baby daughter Jessica arrived six months later.
So when Dave’s 16-year-old brother Paul began stopping by every morning after Dave left for his insurance job, I didn’t mind.
‘I’m just doing breakfast,’ I smiled one day. ‘Fancy some bacon and eggs?’
Paul nodded, shuffling awkwardly from foot to foot. Poor kid, he was always so nervous.
Despite looking like Dave with his dark hair and eyes, they couldn’t have been more different.
Whereas my fella was warm and outgoing, his little bro was a bit of a loner.
Still, maybe he’d come out of his shell over the years as he got older.
But as the months rolled by, I started to feel uncomfortable around Paul. He was a constant fixture in our house, but never seemed to want to talk – just eat and watch TV.
‘I swear he’s always staring at me,’ I told Dave one night. ‘But as soon as I look up, he looks away. I know it sounds silly, but he’s kind of… creepy.’
‘I know what you mean. Even my other brothers think he’s weird,’ Dave sighed. ‘The neighbours used to call him Tree Boy because he was always climbing trees outside their houses to stare in at them.
‘Tell you what, I’ll ask him not to come over when I’m not here any more,’ he added.
I nodded gratefully.
True to his word, Dave had a chat with Paul and he stopped coming over so much.
Without feeling like I was constantly being watched, I could finally get on with living the life I’d dreamed of in Oz.
Unfortunately, the peace didn’t last long…
‘You’ve put a dent in our car!’ Paul came storming into our home one evening.
‘You what?’ Dave frowned.
‘When you and her borrowed the family car the other day,’ he ranted, jabbing an accusing finger in my direction. ‘You put a massive dent in it. Where’s the money to fix it?’
Blimey, this was the loudest I’d heard him since I’d got here. And the scariest…
‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ Dave said, baffled.
Paul glared from him to me. Then turned and left.
‘That was freaky,’ I shuddered.
The problems didn’t stop there. That night, Paul pounded on our windows, hurling abuse.
‘The kids are asleep,’ I fretted as Dave called the police.
By the time they arrived, Paul had gone. But they suggested we should take out a restraining order.
‘You sure that’s necessary?’ Dave asked.
‘Sounds like your brother’s pretty angry,’ an officer shrugged. ‘And you’ve got kids to consider.’
Dave nodded miserably.
Next morning, we took out a restraining order against Paul. It meant he wasn’t allowed to come near us or the kids.
I hated seeing Dave torn between his family and me, but Paul had shown no signs of trying to patch things up and I couldn’t risk him scaring the kids.
Taking Jessica out in her pram with her brother and sister one weekend, we wandered around the local shopping centre.
‘Just got to get some cash out,’ Dave smiled as the kids made a beeline for the nearest toy shop. ‘I’ll meet you back here in a minute, love.’
‘Okay,’ I said as he jumped on the escalator.
As I walked round the shop with the kids, suddenly someone was shouting in my face.
‘I’m gonna kill you,’ a man’s voice shrieked as he grabbed my arm. He was so close to me, at first, I couldn’t see who he was.
Even though I hadn’t heard that voice in months, though, there was no mistaking who it belonged to – Paul.
My heart was hammering in my chest.
Just as quickly as he appeared, a woman was pushing him away from me, shoving him out of the door. Then he turned and ran.
A shop assistant took me to the manager’s office to call the police. Seconds later, Dave appeared, wrapping his arms around me.
‘Did he hurt you or the kids?’ he asked, worried.
I shook my head, unable to speak. I couldn’t get any words out, I was so shocked.
‘He shouldn’t be allowed near us,’ I gasped finally. ‘The restraining order…’
When we spoke to the police, though, they told us the restraining order had ended just hours before.
‘He didn’t breach it,’ they explained. ‘We can’t arrest him, all you can do is get another restraining order.’
So, that’s what we did.
Family or not, Paul had crossed the line. We had no idea why he was acting like this, but we didn’t want to risk things turning nasty.
‘He’s 20 now,’ I sighed. ‘I always thought he’d grow out of being weird.’
‘Me too,’ Dave nodded. ‘Looks like he’s just got worse.’
He was right – Paul had got worse. Even more than we knew…
‘Why does Dave always go to work, then come straight back and walk round the property?’ my neighbour Ann asked one day while we chatted over a cuppa.
‘What?’ I laughed, puzzled.
‘Every morning, I see him drive off, then he walks back and wanders round. Then he leaves again,’ she said.
I shrugged, bemused.
‘Well, it’s him or someone who looks like him,’ she continued.
My blood ran cold as her words began to sink in – someone who looks like him…
From a distance, it’d be easy to confuse Dave with his little brother. Was Paul lurking around our home?
I told Dave later, but there was nothing the police could do unless they sat guard all day and night and caught him.
In the end, we made a decision. We were due to go back to England for my granddad’s funeral anyway, so I convinced Dave we’d stay a bit longer.
‘Just six months,’ I said. ‘I just need to have a break from this whole Paul business.’
‘Okay,’ he agreed. ‘Let’s do it.’
Back in England, I felt safe for the first time in years. I hadn’t even realised how much everything with Paul had been wearing me out.
‘There might not be a lot of sun, sea and sand,’ I told Dave. ‘But at least there’s not so much stress here, either.’
A few weeks later, I got a call from Ann in Australia, though.
‘Does Dave have a brother called Paul?’ she asked.
Oh God, there was no escape, was there?
‘Yes, Ann,’ I sighed. ‘What’s he done now?’
‘H-he’s been arrested for murder!’ she stammered.
My heart stopped.
I knew that Paul was creepy, but… murder?
Making my excuses to Ann, I hung up and called the police.
‘It’s true,’ an officer said. ‘We were about to call you. We need to ask you and Dave some questions.’
Sitting in the police station, I couldn’t believe what was happening. The police explained how a 17-year-old girl called Natalie Russell had been abducted on her way home from school.
‘He’s confessed to her murder,’ they told us. ‘He’d planned the whole thing, cut holes in the mesh fence sectioning off woodland from the path she walked along to get home. He came up behind her and dragged her through the fence before trying to strangle her, then he slit her throat.’
I shook my head in disbelief, gripping Dave’s hand. I couldn’t imagine what that poor
girl’s parents were going through.
‘But… why?’ I asked, shocked.
The officer just looked at me for a moment.
‘He said it was because she looked like you,’ he explained to me. ‘And because he hates women.’
I stared at him in horror as he showed me a picture of the girl Paul had murdered.
Long brown hair with the same sweeping fringe as mine, similar delicate features and a small frame as well…
The only difference was the 15-year age gap between us.
Would Paul have killed me, if only he’d been able to get to me?
I shuddered at the thought. But the fear I felt was nothing compared to the guilt. If I’d stayed in Australia maybe I’d be dead, but at least this poor, innocent girl would still be alive.
If we thought that was the worst of it, we were sorely mistaken.
‘Paul’s also confessed to two other murders in the Frankston area,’ the officer went on. ‘Before Natalie, he killed an 18-year-old called Elizabeth Stevens and a woman called Debbie Fream.
‘Debbie had just left her 12-
day-old baby at home with a friend and had gone to get some milk, when he hijacked her car and slit her throat.’
I couldn’t listen to any more, I felt sick.
Turned out, they’d only caught Paul after Natalie’s killing because he’d accidentally sliced a piece of skin off his thumb as she’d struggled. Detectives had found it in the wound in her neck and traced him through its DNA.
I’d read about Elizabeth and Debbie’s deaths in the papers too.
My brother-in-law had been labelled the Frankston Serial Killer. Chillingly, all three victims had a similar look.
In court, Paul pleaded guilty to three counts of murder and was handed three consecutive life sentences with no chance of parole for 30 years.
Yet his actions continued to haunt us.
Back in Oz, every time I signed my signature or told someone my name, I could see the horrified realisation on their faces as they made the connection between our family and that beast.
We even moved to Norfolk to escape it, and had another daughter Holly. But when there was a double murder nearby, me and Dave were both treated as suspects simply because of Paul’s history.
Then, last year, 16 years after Paul was locked away, I turned on the TV to see his face on the news once again.
He’d made it into the papers for requesting a government paid-for sex change operation so he could be transferred to a women’s prison.
I turned off the telly in disgust.
I won’t pretend Paul doesn’t exist though, because I made a promise to Natalie’s parents that I would never let the world forget what he did to my double – their beloved daughter.
In just 13 years, he could be eligible for parole.
If he’s successful, he’ll only be 54 when he’s released. And that’s why, with all my heart, I’m determined not to let that happen.
Julie Denyer, 48, Carshalton, Surrey