Smiling proudly beside her beautiful baby daughter, Amelia Arnold was the picture of a doting mum.
Ms Arnold, who “absolutely loved” motherhood, was murdered by her abusive and controlling boyfriend Jack Wall, then 22, after she bravely decided to leave him.
In an attack too horrific to comprehend, Wall battered her with a dumbbell eight times in front of their 11-month-old child at their Hertfordshire home, an hour north of London.
When he thought she was “playing dead”, he then strangled her – before tying up her body with PlayStation wires and dumping her in the forest.
For Ms Arnold’s heartbroken family, the November 2012 killing – which saw Wall jailed for 19 years – ripped away the life of their “loving, funny” girl.
It also left Ms Arnold’s baby, who was about to turn one, without parents.
Now, almost eight years on, Amelia’s dad Laurence Arnold has spoken out about his daughter’s murder at length for the first time to raise awareness of domestic violence – as Brits are plunged into new lockdown measures.
“I didn’t know exactly what had happened until the trial, where they said she’d been beaten to death and she’d obviously tried to protect herself.
“Her daughter was there – she was in the same room. I don’t know whether Amelia was holding her, whether she’d run to Amelia.
“Amelia was looking forward to having her daughter’s first birthday. She doted on her.”
Calls to domestic violence helplines have surged during the coronavirus pandemic in both Australia and the UK as many victims are left trapped at home with their abusers.
In the first few weeks of the UK national lockdown, suspected domestic abuse killings shot up by 160 per cent, with 16 deaths.
And with a strict three-tier lockdown system coming into force in the UK this week – and unemployment rates spiking – it’s feared the toll will only rise.
Like many domestic abuse victims, Amelia had suffered in silence, pretending the bruises on her face were from household accidents.
Threatened by Wall into keeping her abuse a secret, she’d assure loved ones: “Oh, I was doing my hair and Jack tripped over my curling tongs.”
“She didn’t talk a great deal about him,” Mr Arnold, 55, recalls.
“She certainly never said he was abusive or anything like that. If I knew what he was like, obviously I wouldn’t have allowed her to stay there.”
The grieving dad – who has been supporting women’s refuges during the pandemic – said that domestic abuse “happens a lot more than people realise”.
“The recent figures are shocking,” he said. “If there are this many homicides going on, I don’t know how many people are just suffering the abuse. It doesn’t bear thinking about.”
Ms Arnold, an “outgoing comedian” and former hairdresser, had moved into her own place with Wall after giving birth to their daughter in 2011.
She was “completely smitten” with her partner, but relatives noticed her personality change, as she became angrier, stressed and lost weight.
They also witnessed Wall behaving strangely.
While Mr Arnold often visited his daughter and granddaughter, he said he only ever met Wall once.
“He was never there. I’d go round and (Amelia) would say he’s shut himself in the toilet or something weird like that,” recalls the dad-of-four. “He was only there once by mistake.
“I put my hand out to shake his hand and he just didn’t want to know.”
But he said that his daughter “didn’t want anybody to hate” her boyfriend, so “she’d never create a negative vision of what he was like”.
In fact, behind closed doors, Ms Arnold was being subjected to “consistent and persistent physical and verbal abuse” in the lead-up to her murder.
A court later heard Wall had threatened to snap her neck in her sleep, hurled a table at her, and sought to control “everything about her”.
Eventually Ms Arnold “saw sense” and became determined to end the relationship, opening up about the abuse to various authorities.
She even went to a police station on November 7, 2012 – but was too scared to make a formal complaint.
The next day, Wall savagely killed her.
For Mr Arnold – who last saw his daughter about a week before the murder – the terrible news that Amelia was missing came during a rainy drive.
After getting a call from police, he said he pulled over and was told “there’s a 99 per cent chance Amelia’s been murdered but we haven’t got a body”.
“It felt like all my hair got pulled off the top of my head,” Mr Arnold said, who said he was angered to have been told the news by phone.
“It was the most unpleasant sensation – something left my body or something, I’m not too sure. I’ve never felt anything like it.
“Of course, after that point, any time I rang one of my kids and they didn’t answer I thought they were dead because of the amount of times I tried ringing Amelia and she was dead. I just thought the worst.”
Ms Arnold’s body was discovered in woodland several days after the killing, with the shallow grave coated in disinfectant to stop creatures digging it up.
“To find her body was a good thing,” Mr Arnold said, adding that identifying his girl was “one of the most unpleasant things” a parent can go through.
“To this day, I may not have found where she was.
“There are so many families who don’t know what’s happened to their child, they just disappeared and they’ve got no answer.”
Sickening details of Ms Arnold’s murder were later heard at Blackfriars Crown Court.
They included how Wall used “terrifying force” to attack Ms Arnold during a row on November 8, 2012, before binding her up in a foetal position.
“You had to sit there and not react at all,” Mr Arnold said.
“Even when we were told the most dreadful things that happened and how she was disposed of and folded up.”
But in July 2013, Mr Arnold was finally able to react as Wall, then 22, was convicted of murder and jailed for life with a minimum term of 19 years.
He got a concurrent four-and-a-half-year term for obstructing a coroner.
The killer’s uncle, Joseph Potter – who had helped him get rid of Ms Arnold’s body – was locked up for two and a half years for assisting an offender and obstructing a coroner.
“I was totally relieved and burst into tears,” Mr Arnold said.
Today, Mr Arnold, who has three other children aged 29, 24 and 10, is working tirelessly to raise awareness of the horrors of domestic abuse.
He is a member of the Freemasons, an organisation that has donated laptops, smartphones and cash to vital services during the pandemic.
Though it is seen by some as a shadowed group with secret handshakes and ancient rituals, Mr Arnold insisted the organisation is “the opposite of dark”.
“It’s made me more generous, it pushes you to think about other people not just yourselves, to better yourself as an individual,” he said
In the past three months, more than £165,000 ($A298,000) has been donated by the Freemasons to help protect women and children from domestic abuse.
“I wish (Amelia) had the support that a women’s refuge can provide. If she had, she might be alive today,” Mr Arnold said.
In a message to others who may be living in a domestic violence situation, Mr Arnold called on people to speak out.
“Speak to your friends, speak to anybody,” he said. “That person will never go back to how they were. They are a bully. Things won’t change, you need to get out.”
As for Amelia, Mr Arnold thinks about his bubbly girl every day.
“I think about her all the time,” he said.
“The last time we were together I took a photograph in her room – a selfie with her. That’s how I remember her. One of the funniest people I knew.”
This article originally appeared on The Sun and was republished with permission