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Surprise reason wife killer isolated in jail

Written by on May 17, 2024

A killer husband accused of raping his estranged ex-wife in the weeks before he burned her to death is in isolation in jail due to the chickenpox virus.

Brian Earl Johnston is serving a life sentence for the heinous murder of Gold Coast mum Kelly Wilkinson in the backyard of her Arundel home in April 2021.
Johnston, 37, is also facing four charges of rape allegedly committed against Ms Wilkinson, 27, between February 10-13 that same year.

He is fighting the charges.

During a brief mention on Monday, Southport Magistrates Court was told Johnston was currently in isolation due to the chickenpox virus circulating around the jail.

His lawyer Kara Lee Murphy said nine witnesses would be called to a two-day committal hearing in August.

“Will it actually go for two days, or will it run out of steam after one?” Magistrate Jane Bentley asked.

“I think it’s likely to go for two,” Ms Murphy responded.

Kim Bryson, Johnston’s barrister during his sentencing for Ms Wilkinson’s murder, will represent him during the committal hearing, listed for August 27-28.

Committal hearings in Queensland allow a magistrate to determine if there is enough evidence to send a defendant to trial in a higher court.

Johnston will appear by video link over those two dates.

Police allege in court documents that all four rape offences occurred at the family home on Spikes Circuit in Arundel from February 10-13, 2021, including two alleged instances of rape on the 12th.

As part of his bail conditions, Johnston was forbidden from approaching his ex-wife except to discuss matters involving their children.

In March the former US marine was handed a life sentence after pleading guilty at the same court earlier in the year to Ms Wilkinson’s murder.

It was during the sentence that the disputed rape charges were revealed.

Members of Ms Wilkinson’s family were in attendance that day, many donning sunflower-themed pins and earrings as a tribute.

Brisbane Supreme Court was told of the horrific timeline leading to the young mum’s murder after the couple married in 2011 following a whirlwind romance.

Ms Wilkinson left Johnston in 2017 and moved to Australia with their children, telling him not to follow her.

They eventually reconciled and Johnston moved into their Gold Coast home, sharing a third child with Ms Wilkinson.

But he was again kicked out of the family home.

The court was told Ms Wilkinson had told her family Johnston was “abusive and controlling” and was so fearful of him she organised a codeword to let them know if she was in trouble.

On April 20, 2021 – the day Ms Wilkinson was killed – Johnston approached the Arundel home dressed in black and wearing a mask while carrying a bag filled with tape, zipties, a pry bar, a tomahawk axe, a bag of white powder later identified to be a sedative and a bundle of rope.

He was also carrying a 20-litre jerry can filled with petrol.

Crown prosecutor Mark McCarthy said a struggle ensued between Johnston and Ms Wilkinson in the backyard before he doused her, then himself, with the petrol.

He then ignited the fuel.

Ms Wilkinson died from her injuries – witnessed by the couple’s young children – while Johnston managed to extinguish the flames by jumping in the nearby pool.

He was found with severe burns at a nearby property by police.

Johnston will not be able to apply for parole until after 2041.

Following the sentencing, Ms Wilkinson’s sister Danielle Carroll said Johnston had inflicted a “lifetime of immeasurable pain and suffering” by killing Kelly.

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“All she wanted was to love and be loved; all you gave her was pure evil,” she told reporters outside court.

“You let in an infinite darkness and my heart aches for her.”

She lamented the prospect of Johnston being given a “second chance” at the possibility he could receive parole in 20 years.