Dionne Fehring, 52, shares her heartbreaking story with Take 5…
Speeding into the driveway, I looked at my phone to see 76 missed calls from my partner, Jayson.
Hands shaking, I pulled my 12-week-old son Patrick out of his baby seat and handed him to my mum, Julie, before grabbing my daughter Jessie, 17 months, out of the car.
“Quick!” I shouted as I heard Jayson’s van pull into the driveway. “Get in the house.”
It was March 2004, and for most of our three-year marriage , Jayson had subjected me to emotional torture and brutal beatings.
That afternoon, Jayson had called me from work.
“Tonight’s the night,” he told me cryptically. “It’s on.”
He didn’t elaborate further, but his words made me fear for my life given how violent and temperamental he was.
I knew, then, that I had to escape him for good.
I’d met Jayson through an internet chat site in 1999 when I was 28 and things were perfect at first.
Our relationship began in a whirlwind where he had moved in within eight weeks. He was charming, strong and attentive.
After six months, he proposed.
Three days before our wedding in September 2001, he got so angry that he punched the car windscreen and shattered it.
With the wedding so close, I hoped it was a one-off incident and things would soon calm down.
But I was wrong.
His violence and coercive control only got worse as time went on.
For a long time I feared that one day he might attempt to kill me.
Having twice breached violence orders the police had taken out against him on my behalf, I feared for mine and my two children’s lives and I did what any protective mother would: flee.
So that afternoon in March, I’d grabbed Patrick’s nappy baby, bundled him into his car seat and raced to daycare to pick up Jessie before driving down from Brisbane to Mum and her partner Paul’s place on the Gold Coast.
Jayson must have been reading my mind, because when I didn’t answer any of his calls, he followed me.
Despite our best efforts to lock him out of Mum’s house, he got in through a side door into the garage.
With the police on the way, he made a calculating move by driving off with my car.
Hoping I’d seen the last of him, me and the kids enjoyed 10 days of relaxation and went to stay with my cousins on their farm in Toowoomba.
There was no way the three of us were ever going to live with Jayson again.
Then, while we were away, Mum called to say that he had filed legal action to get access to our children.
Unable to cope with it all, I was left hospitalised from burnout and the stress of everything that had happened.
While the kids were staying with Mum, Jayson claimed interim custody of them.
“I’ll fight him,” I assured Mum.
Two days before Anzac Day, the court ruled that I would have custody of the kids and Jayson would only have access to them one weekend a fortnight.
Since he already had the kids, we were due to meet at a police station for him to hand them over at the end of the weekend.
Thank god, I thought.
That weekend, Mum and I excitedly prepared her house to have the kids back with us.
Waking up at 3 am on ANZAC Day, I was filled with dread, as if I knew something bad was going to happen.
We went to the dawn service to pay tribute to my grandfather, Alexander, who fought in World War 1.
As I watched the sun rise, I continued to feel uneasy.
“There’s nothing to worry about,” Mum soothed.
I couldn’t help feeling that my mother’s intuition was telling me something wasn’t quite right.
Come afternoon, Mum and I were waiting outside the police station to collect the children.
As minutes ticked by and Jayson a no show, I started to panic.
“Something’s happened,” I screamed at the officers inside the station. They shared my concern and suggested we contact the federal police.
“He’s probably done a runner,” the cops said.
I phoned the police station that had dealt with Jayson in the past and they dispatched a patrol car to my former home, where the kids were staying with their dad.
Back at Mum’s, I grew restless and grabbed her keys.
“I have to go home,” I said.
“I’ll drive you ,” Paul offered.
Mum stayed home in case Jayson phoned or turned up. For the hour-long drive I assured myself that everything would be okay.
But at 10pm, we pulled onto my road and I saw blue flashing lights ahead. Police cars were outside my former home.
Ambulances and news crews covered the street.
But I didn’t care.
When Paul pulled over, I bolted across the road to get to my house.
“Are they alive?” I choked out as I crumpled onto the ground.
“They’re all dead,” a stranger told me.
What came next was a complete blur as I was overcome with the most unimaginable grief.
As weeks went by, I learned more horrific details about what happened that night.
An autopsy revealed Jayson Dalton, 32, had drugged both children before murdering them and taking his own life.
He had even written a goodbye email to me.
Jayson believed that by taking away the two most important things from me, he could control me from beyond the grave.
I wasn’t prepared to let him win.
In the wake of my children’s death, I channelled my grief into helping other women and children affected by domestic violence.
While Patrick never grew old enough to say ‘mum’ or ‘I love you’ and Jessie never got to experience school, I found solace in my faith and in sharing my story.
On the anniversary of their death, I returned to the dawn service on ANZAC Day and paid tribute to my lost babies.
Then and there, I decided to forgive and let go of blame.
“I’ll never forget you,” I said to Jessie and Patrick as I looked up to the sky.
Slowly but surely, I was able to move on with my life, never forgetting my angels in heaven.
“Good night Jessie and Patrick,” I’d say every night before bed. “I love you and hope I dream about you tonight.”
In June 2005, I was stunned to find that I had fallen pregnant by a man that I had since ended a relationship with.
It felt like a miracle.
What’s more, I had joined an online dating website and met Glen, 41, a soldier.
While I wasn’t sure I could ever trust another man, there was an undeniable spark between Glen and I.
He was so kind, attentive, and supported me through every up and down of my grief.
On Christmas Day later that year, Glen got down on one knee to me while I was heavily pregnant.
Two days later, I gave birth to Sean Alexander.
While it was wonderful to welcome a precious new life into the world, it was also bittersweet.
In the hospital, I felt the presence of my other babies and I was sure they were smiling down on me and their little brother.
Glen raised my boy as if he was his own.
The following year, Glen and I tied the knot and we welcomed baby Melissa in 2007.
Now, the kids are nearly grown up at 17 and 16 and we live our new normal.
Nothing will bring back my lost angels but I hope in sharing my story, I will keep their legacy alive.
Dionne’s story appears in the book Look What You Made Me Do, Fathers Who Kill, by Megan Norris, (Big Sky Publishing)
If you or anyone you know experiences domestic violence contact 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800respect.org,au