Real Life

My charming boyfriend, the killer

He turned up the music so no-one could hear her scream and showed her suicide notes he had written before trying to force pills down her throat.

It was a petrifying night for Auckland woman Caryl Ussher (25) when former partner Neil Chapman (42) tried to kill her and them himself two years ago.

Pleading for her life, Caryl narrowly escaped death, and afterwards pressured police to press charges before another woman could be harmed.

But in February, Caryl’s worst fears were realised. Neil, who had moved to Australia shortly after trying to kill her, tried again, and this time he was successful, killing Australian woman Stacy Ramadge (22) and then himself in an apparent murder- suicide in Melbourne.

Caryl is hurting deeply for Stacy and her family and on top of that, Stacy’s death has dredged up memories of her own horri?c brush with death at the hands of the man she once loved.

“There’s nothing more terrifying than thinking you are going to lose your life,” explains Caryl. “After hearing what happened in Australia, it’s made me realise that it could have been me.”

Caryl met Neil eight years ago when the couple worked together in Kaitaia and they hit it off immediately.

“He was charming, very loving and had a great sense of humour,” she says.

But two years later, Caryl says the relationship became emotionally and sometimes physically abusive.

“He had a really bad temper. I felt I was walking on eggshells. I was trapped and became isolated from family and friends. I didn’t have any self-esteem. It was soul destroying.”

In 2009, Caryl got the courage to leave Neil, and six months after their separation – while visiting Neil to pick up some of her belongings – the unthinkable occurred.

“He had a sad, glazed look in his eyes. He started accusing me of seeing someone else and kept saying, “If I can’t have you, nobody will.’

“I said, ‘Look, I’m not hearing any of this,’ and went to leave. That’s when he grabbed my arm and wouldn’t let me go.

“He calmly said, ‘Tonight, I’m going to kill you and I’m going to kill myself.'”

Caryl didn’t take the threats seriously, until Neil showed her the suicide notes and saw how he had premeditated the killing – from locking all the windows and doors to turning up the music so nobody would hear her scream.

Showing her a sock full of pills, Neil gave Caryl 30 minutes to decide how she wanted to die.

“I had the choice of taking these pills or he was going to force them down my throat and strangle me. I had 30 minutes to try and save my life. He kept pointing to the clock and saying, ‘Hurry up, you haven’t got much time left.'”

In desperation, Caryl lied and told Neil that she was having their baby so he could spare her, but he didn’t seem to care.

With ?ve minutes left, Caryl had to act fast to save her own life.

“He had his hands around my throat and asked if there was any hope for us and if I still loved him. I said, ‘Yes, yes, yes. I want to start again.’

“I told him what he wanted to hear, and thank God he believed it. That’s when it all settled down,” she says.

“He immediately changed – it was like light coming into his eyes again. I gave him hope. That’s all he wanted.”

Terri?ed from the experience, it took three weeks for Caryl to go to the police to make a formal complaint. She took a handful of the pills as evidence.

During this process Neil moved to Australia, but Caryl still pursued charges, in the hope of saving someone else.

She didn’t feel con?dent that the police took her complaint seriously.

“They were saying it was his word against mine. I felt let down and disheartened by the police. It was a big step for me to go to them, but I didn’t feel supported at all. I was fearful that they didn’t believe me and to not feel supported in this situation is a really horrible thing.”

Hearing that Neil got to a stage where he killed a young woman before killing himself upsets Caryl.

“I felt it could have been preventable if the police had taken me seriously,” she says.

Despite not being able to save Stacy, Caryl is hoping to lend a hand and inspire other victims of abuse.

She’s a volunteer for Shine, a charity helping people keep safe from abuse.

She visits the homes of those victimised by abusive spouses, and offers support.

“I wanted to give back and bring about the awareness of domestic violence and how bad it can be.”

Although Neil threatened her life, she still mourns the loss of a man, who underneath his insecurities, could still be loving. “I’ve gone through the grieving process. I thought I knew him – it’s scary.

But I’m hopeful for the future and I’m really grateful to be alive.”

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