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Real Life

Real life: My sister was brutally murdered by her partner

His jealousy was out of control, but we never guessed what he'd do next.

By As told to Take 5

Bianca Unwin, 21, Melbourne, Vic tells her real life story;

Trigger warning: This post deals with domestic violence.
Walking into the hospital room, I saw my big sister Katie smiling with joy.
She'd just given birth to her son, Levi.
Being a mum was Katie's dream, but it hadn't always been easy.
At 19, driving home from her hairdressing job, she was involved in a car crash and broke her spine.
Doctors warned carrying a baby and giving birth would be painful and risky.
Katie shrugged it off. And at 23, after a three-day labour, she proved them wrong.
She'd split with Levi's dad and lived at home with me, our mum Tania, dad Boyd, and younger brother Dylan.
Katie was an amazing mum.
"I want Levi to have the best," she said, returning to work a few months after his birth.
On her feet all day, she did 12-hour shifts, despite being in agony with her back and the osteoporosis she'd developed.
We were close and both loved fashion.
Every weekend Mum, Katie, our grandmother, Lorraine, and I would go clothes shopping.
Katie looked gorgeous in everything.
At Levi's third birthday party, a guy I hadn't seen before was among Katie's friends.
His name was Shane and he and Katie began dating.
Katie (left) and I. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
Shane was a year younger than her, a father of two boys and a refrigeration mechanic.
Katie seemed happy. Shane was good with Levi and moved in with us.
We welcomed him into our family and he came along with us on our holidays.
Three years later they had a little girl, Ava.
Shane was no help.
"It's like having three kids," Katie sighed. "I'm working, looking after the house and the kids. I'm exhausted."
Tired of hairdressing she came to work with me as a waitress.
But Shane was a problem.
He sat outside spying on her, even coming inside to see who she was talking to.
The moment Katie's shift finished, he'd ring to see where she was and what she was doing.
He monitored Katie's Facebook page, made her delete guys and then shut it down altogether.
"It's not acceptable, Katie," I said to her.
"I'm handling it," she promised.
Then our workmate told us he'd been added on Facebook by a girl called Abbey Smith.
"I think it's really Shane," he said. "She asked if I had the hots for anyone at work."
Katie confronted Shane.
Shane with Katie. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
"He admitted it," she told me, rolling her eyes.
Then the abusive messages started up.
"Look," she said, showing me a text where he called her disgusting names.
Then Shane rang me to complain about Katie's cheating.
"Shane, she wouldn't have time," I snapped. "Besides, she loves you."
He called our parents, too.
Worn down by all this, Katie was in tears.
"If he's not making you happy, leave," I pleaded.
But he was the father of her little girl and she just wanted a happy family.
One day, Dad took Levi to the park for a play with Shane's kids.
Shane mentioned Katie's supposed cheating.
"I can't let it go," he ranted.
"You're both adults. You've got to sort out your issues," Dad replied as diplomatically as possible.
But he warned Shane, too: "Land a hand on my daughter or grandchildren, you'll be hearing from me."
Shane looked Dad in the eye.
"I've never laid a hand on your daughter and never will," he vowed.
Me (left) with Katie, her daughter and Mum. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
In the early hours, six days later, Mum burst into my bedroom, hysterical, screaming.
Mum had seen a Victoria Police post on Facebook saying a 29-year-old woman had been found dead in a house on Katie's street.
A 28-year-old man was in custody. Katie was 29, Shane 28.
Dad called the police, but got nowhere.
We drove to Katie's, Dylan holding my hand.
It's not her, I told myself desperately.
When we got there, we saw straightaway that her home was taped off, and there were six police cars parked outside.
Screaming, I threw open my car door before we stopped and ran towards Katie's.
Officers wouldn't let me through.
"We believe it's Katie," one officer said, but wouldn't confirm anything.
We learned that Levi was with his biological father and Ava was with Shane's mum.
It took the police four days to confirm that it was actually my sister.
By then it was all over social media that Shane had beaten her to death with a dumbbell.
Because of what he'd done to her we couldn't view her before the funeral.
Me, Dad, Mum and Dylan outside court. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
I'll never forget my Mum's shrieks of grief and pain as she collapsed in front of Katie's small white coffin.
Little Levi carried an orange rose for his mum.
Orange was his favourite colour.
Just a few weeks beforehand, Katie had painted her nails orange for him.
Ava cried and giggled.
Levi went to live with his dad and Ava came to live with us.
We found out that Shane admitted murdering Katie.
According to his statement they'd argued over his jealousy.
Shane claimed my 42kg sister, who had broken her spine and suffered osteoporosis, hit him.
She was lying on her son's bed, holding her phone, when Shane went and got the dumbbell from another room.
He had time to consider his actions.
Returning, he smashed the dumbbell into Katie's face and head five times, killing her.
Ava was in the room next door.
Afterwards, he called his mum, saying he was bringing Ava over because he'd killed Katie.
"I've bashed her brains in. There are brains everywhere," he said.
Shane showed no emotion or remorse.
Me wearing my The Red Campaign t-shirt. The Red Heart Campaign encourages all Australians to end all violence against women and children. (Image exclusive to Take 5)
At the trial the judge said his violence was out of character. But I didn't believe he hadn't been violent to Katie before.
The judge jailed Shane Robertson for 24 years with a non-parole of 19, less than the standard murder sentence, because of his guilty plea.
I thought the sentence was unacceptable.
In hindsight, we now realise that Shane's jealous and possessive behaviour was a serious red flag.
Katie didn't know that. Neither did we.
Educating people about domestic violence red flags has since become my passion.
So often women are told to simply leave, but it's not that simple.
They need to figure out a plan and tell their family and friends what's going on.
Too many women try to just leave and the results can be devastating.
Next year, I graduate from my criminology degree and want to teach kids about healthy relationships.
I also want to honour my sister's memory.
She was the strongest and most determined woman I knew.
She had a beautiful smile and was the best sister, daughter and granddaughter a family could wish for.
But most of all, Katie was a brilliant and loving mum.
That was all she wanted, and it still breaks my heart she had this, and so much more, taken from her.

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One Aussie woman dies each week at the hands of a partner or an ex.
Almost one quarter of these victims had already taken out an AVO against their murderer.
This is a national disgrace.
Take 5 is demanding the government do more to keep women safe.
We've called for tougher sentences and imprisonment for violent offenders who breach an AVO.
If you'd like to find out more and sign our petition, click HERE.
If you or someone you know need help, contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or click HERE.

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