Real Life

Real life: My abusive boyfriend burnt me alive

I tried to walk away from him but then he did something truly despicable.

By As told to Take 5

Rose Timblin Condon, 39, shares her shocking true life story:

Trigger warning: This post deals with physical and verbal abuse.

I opened the front door after a long day at work and saw something that put a smile on my face.

My boyfriend, Joseph, was standing in the hallway.

"I've run you a bath. You just relax while I cook dinner," he said, taking my handbag.

I felt like pinching myself I was so happy.

A year earlier I'd been miserable after splitting up with my husband but then I'd met Joseph on an online dating site.

He had gorgeous twinkling blue eyes and was so kind.

He took me and my three children in and looked after us. I felt so lucky.

One day, not long after we'd moved in, Joseph made a comment about something I was wearing.

I ignored it but then he did it again. He also started checking my phone to see who I'd been talking to.

His controlling behaviour quickly escalated.

One evening, after I'd been out with friends, I came home to find Joseph waiting for me.

I could see he was furious.

"Where have you been? Are you cheating on me?" he roared.

I wasn't, but he refused to see reason. He snatched my phone and threw it down the toilet.

After that, he stopped me seeing friends and even demanded that I give up work.

When I refused, he turned up at my office drunk, and started shouting at me in front of my workmates.

Me with one of my kids before the attack. **Photos exclusive to Take 5**
Me with one of my kids before the attack. Photos exclusive to Take 5

On one occasion, he tipped hot coffee on my head.

It was the last straw.

"It's over. I'm leaving," I announced.

He drew his face close to mine.

"If you leave, I'll kill you and your kids," he hissed.

I believed him.

To protect them, I sent them to live with their dad.

Meanwhile, Joseph's reign of terror continued.

After a year of misery, I started looking in secret for a place to live.

One day, I was at home with friends when he walked in and went mad.

He yelled at my mates until they left and I saw red.

"It's over," I said to him.

He went into the bedroom, grabbed some clothes and stormed out.

"I'm not coming back!" he roared.

I couldn't believe my luck. It was finally over.

That evening, I went to bed relieved.

But in the middle of the night my body jolted and my eyes pinged open.

I looked up to see two piercing blue eyes glaring at me.

"Joseph!" I screamed.

My attacker Joseph Miller. **Photos exclusive to Take 5**
My attacker Joseph Miller. Photos exclusive to Take 5

He drew back a fist and punched me hard in the face.

"Get off!" I yelled. He wrapped his hands around my neck and started to squeeze.

He's going to kill me, I thought

But then he let go and climbed off me.

I fumbled for my glasses and spun around to face him.

Then I felt something splash onto my head and body.

My nostrils were instantly stinging.

Petrol.

Horror filled me as I saw him flick on a lighter.

"No!" I screamed.

I scrambled to my feet and tried to run, but Joseph grabbed my dressing gown and pulled me back.

Then… whoosh.

Flames engulfed my body.

I screamed as pain seared through me.

I tried to run but Joseph pinned me down.

He was engulfed in flames, too, but he didn't seem to care.

After what felt like ages, I broke free and stumbled outside.

By now, my dressing gown had burned away and my flesh was on fire.

A neighbour heard my screams and rushed over with a blanket, putting out the flames.

And then everything went black.

Warning: graphic images below.

I was in a coma for a month. **Photos exclusive to Take 5**
I was in a coma for a month. Photos exclusive to Take 5

When I woke up, I was in hospital.

"You're lucky to be alive," a doctor told me.

I'd suffered third-degree burns to 65 per cent of my body and had been in a coma for a month.

My parents were beside me, sobbing.

It was hard to accept what had happened.

I was covered in bandages and had to learn everything again, from lifting my arms to cleaning myself to walking.

One day, I said to a nurse that when I was well enough I should have a breast lift to ease my mobility.

Her eyes filled with pity.

"Oh love, don't you know?" she said.

"Know what?" I asked.

"We had to remove your breasts because the risk of infection was too great."

I cried in shock.

I hadn't even realised.

It took me a long time to look at my reflection in a mirror.

And when I did I had to turn away.

I couldn't even recognise myself.

My burns were horrific.**Photos exclusive to Take 5**
My burns were horrific.Photos exclusive to Take 5

I cried bitter tears.

How would anyone love me now?

For the next few months I had countless skin grafts, but I was determined to get better for my kids.

I moved in with my parents so they could help me care for them.

Nightmares haunted me.

Eventually, Joseph Miller, 41, was charged with attempted murder, assault and reckless endangerment.

He pleaded not guilty which meant I had to go to trial.

There, the court heard how he broke into my unit and removed all the fire alarms before he set me alight.

He had suffered burns, too, and claimed it was an accident but thankfully the jury saw through his lies.

He was found guilty and jailed for life.

I was relieved but still badly scarred, both physically and mentally.

Then one day I spotted an old school friend on Facebook, Todd, and we started chatting.

I told him about my scars.

"Beauty is on the inside," he replied.

For the first time, I felt hope.

We met up and I was anxious about what he'd think of my face, but he didn't seem to notice.

He drove me to hospital appointments and stayed in the ward overnight when I had skin grafts.

In time, we moved in together and when he proposed, I was elated.

A year and half later, I slipped into my lacy blue dress, curled my red hair and looked at my reflection in the mirror.

Finally, I was proud of what I saw, because it showed how far I'd come.

As I walked down the aisle, I remembered how I'd believed no one would love me again but waiting for me at the altar was the kindest man I'd ever met, looking so happy to be marrying me, scars and all.

Me today - I want others to know there's hope.
**Photos exclusive to Take 5**
Me today - I want others to know there's hope.
Photos exclusive to Take 5

When I was in a violent relationship, I felt hopeless as if there was no way out.

But I'm living proof that there is.

I want my story to give domestic violence victims strength to leave and believe that things can get better.

After the worst happens, you can still find a happy ending.

If you need someone to talk to about domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT or visit White Ribbon Australia's website for more information.

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