Police went to court last Thursday to get a court order to protect Kate Ritchie from her husband Stuart Webb after an "incident" at their home left friends and relatives worried about the radio star's emotional and physical wellbeing.
It came just days after police were called to the multi-million dollar home they share in Randwick. They were so concerned they immediately sought an interim AVO banning Stuart, 39, from assaulting, threatening, harassing or stalking Kate, 41.
The AVO included a clause forbidding the former NRL star from approaching or being with his wife "for at least 12 hours after drinking alcohol or taking illicit drugs". Stuart did not turn up to court to fight the AVO when police asked for – and were granted – a two-week extension.
Friends, including two of her Home And Away castmates, said they were relieved that Kate's secret nightmare was now out in the open, claiming this was just the latest in a string of incidents dating back at least three years.
"We've all been worried about Kate," admitted one former Home And Away castmate. "On the surface it may have seemed like the perfect match, but there were issues from pretty early on in the marriage. They were – and still are – polar opposites! I think Kate created her own version of a fairytale, but the reality never added up."
The mum-of-one's former colleagues revealed to Woman's Day that many of Kate's friends had reservations about the marriage even before the couple tied the knot in September 2010 – and hope she's now finally realising it's over.
"The truth is, not many of us really liked Stuart," one source says, adding that she understands Kate has sought advice about formally ending the marriage.
"Kate is smart, well read and has always been mature beyond her years. Stuart is very immature. He loves to hang with the boys and drink, and she leads a very disciplined life.
Kate lights up a room, but its hard to even sustain a conversation with Stuart over dinner."
Stuart is understood to have moved out of the couple's home following the police investigation but even before that, he had been spending long periods of time at either his parents' home in Queensland or the Bowral retreat he and Kate bought several years ago.
"Kate has tried and tried to make it work," reveals our source. "I know in the past she's confided a lot in [Home And Away stars] Emily Symons and Lynne McGranger, but this time she's retreated into her own world. I know she'd be horrified to have her personal life exposed like this."
Even before the "incident" earlier this month, there were signs that Kate's marriage was in crisis, despite her repeated public denials and the brave face she has put on in defiance of the endless rumours and speculation.
WATCH: In happier times: Kate Ritchie and Stuart Webb's airport reunion. Story continues below...
When she and Stuart were spotted in Randwick last month, just four days before their ninth wedding anniversary, the couple appeared to be under enormous strain, with Stuart at one point holding his head in his hands as Kate appeared to argue with him.
And she was reportedly "mortified" in March when he was charged with drink driving for the third time in seven years after allegedly recording a blood alcohol reading of 0.083 after running a red light near their eastern suburbs home. His case is still before the court.
It appears Kate started publicly distancing herself from Stuart late last year – the last time she posted a photograph with her husband on her Instagram was November 25.
Friends say the couple have repeatedly clashed over his drinking and late-night lifestyle, and that Stuart struggled "living in the shadow" of someone as successful as Kate, who earns more than $1 million a year from her Nova radio show and many endorsements.
"He always struggled with it, even though she built him up and couldn't have been more supportive," reveals our source. "Sadly, Kate has increasingly realised there's more to life."
Kate has sought the comfort and support of her parents Steve and Heather as she decides what's best for her future.
Her Home And Away co-stars say they have every confidence she will bounce back better than ever from this crisis.