Ms. Graziella Daillér, 48, was killed by her ex-partner, the step-son of a football star, who also took his own life, on or about Thursday 15 May 2014. The killer was a repetitive abuser, who breached an intervention order issued against him and was allowed to repeatedly torment her after she left the relationship in 2012.
I encountered the spirit of Ms. Daillér and consequently, domestic violence became my business in a far bigger way than it ever had before. I first sensed Graziella early on that Thursday morning and her strong desire to spare others a similar tragedy to her own.
On late Thursday afternoon, I arrived at her workplace, at a health and wellness retreat called Authenticity. It’s a sanctuary on the outskirts of picturesque Port Elliot, which is a one-hour drive south of Adelaide, South Australia.
The previous day, Wednesday 14th of May, my best friend and I met up in Adelaide. She had flown in from Sydney and I came from Perth. Sharing a few short days together, away from our young families, felt completely indulgent and we savoured every moment of it. We hadn’t seen each other for six years, yet as dear friends do, we simply picked up from where we’d left off.
In Adelaide, the atmosphere was lively. Our hotel lobby was inundated with a large group of athletic young men who we’d seen earlier at the airport in the company of media. I thought they were wearing soccer outfits, so when we shared an elevator with a few of them, I asked what soccer team they played for – Italy, perhaps?
No, not quite… they were the Collingwood Football Club! I might have been embarrassed by my gaffe but wasn’t – a sign of my age. Plus, they were shorter than what I thought footballers ought to look like, close up. Now I understood why it had been nearly impossible to get a room in this hotel.
Thursday morning, I sat for breakfast at a window table in the hotel restaurant in the company of elite footballers having their breakfast nearby, but what grabbed my attention more was a newspaper article on domestic violence calling for a Royal Commission into Family Violence in Victoria – following the murder of a boy named Luke Batty by his father, in February 2014.
Following breakfast, my BFF and I enjoyed a scenic drive to our next accommodation via colourful autumn leafed streets, delicious eateries, quaint shops, and magnificent coast. We ate a late lunch at Horseshoe Bay and walked the shore to burn a few calories – it was the perfect girlie day out.
We arrived at the reception of the retreat we’d be staying at for the next two nights, in the late afternoon. Immediately we felt we’d walked in on something that was not quite right – staff were trying to sort something out. The atmosphere was notably serious – there were no smiles on faces.
Eventually, we were taken to an old manor by the director of the retreat, an earnest chap. Upon entering, I felt a strong spiritual presence at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the room in which we’d be sleeping. I mentioned this to him but his interest wasn’t aroused.
At this time, we were the only guests at the manor. Following a short, guided tour of the elegant provincial premises, we retired to our room. A little later we returned to the dining room, downstairs, for drinks and dinner – a grand space tastefully furnished with a piano and large chandelier.
We began enjoying the locally produced organic, preservative-free wine, believing because it was clean we could naturally have more of it, when the only other guests, a married couple, arrived. We fast became drinking companions and the chatter flowed easily between us.
Our friendliness continued into dinner and the following dessert, we enjoyed more wine and talk. We shared that I’d been invited along on this trip by my BFF because she was going through a marriage breakup. The retreat stay was supposed to have been my friend’s 10th wedding anniversary getaway celebration with her beau but it didn’t turn out that way – she got me instead, her bridesmaid.
This, in turn, led to the wife of the couple sharing the breakup story of her previous marriage, and how she’d been a victim of domestic violence. She told us how she’d finally escaped her former abusive husband, with their children, years earlier, in a desperate bid for freedom. She’d left him with all their possessions, and money, and hid in a refuge far away.
It was a harrowing account that caused my heart to ache. Then she spoke of how she came to meet a loving military man a few short years later, they married, and he became a great dad to her kids. It was the kind of happy ending you’d hope for. This was the gem of a man before us, and they had come to Authenticity to celebrate his birthday.
We were then joined in conversation by the director of Authenticity and the talk diverted to discussing violence in the world and how best to deal with it. We had varying points of view. This seriousness was finally interrupted by my BFF’s raucous honky-tonk piano playing. Remarkably, on Friday morning, I awoke clear-headed.
I was supposed to be Graziella’s first client of the day. I waited for her to collect me at 10 am from a couch in the dining room which by day was a quiet sitting room. I looked up at the chandelier above me. It was the kind of fixture I hoped wouldn’t spontaneously detach from the ceiling and crush me.
As time ticked by I wondered where the beautician was – she was late. Her workroom was at the top of the stairs, and the door was closed. She obviously wasn’t there. I’d been looking forward to having my nails painted as I hadn’t had the experience since my wedding – twelve years earlier.
I was in a space that encouraged mindfulness so I chose not to get agitated by her lateness. Perhaps she or reception got the time muddled up. I looked around but couldn’t see any staff in the house to ask – it felt empty.
At 11.15 am I gave up waiting when the director finally walked past me. I asked him where the beautician was, telling him I’d been waiting for her for more than an hour. He said she hadn’t come into work. I was surprised by his unapologetic manner but chose not to make a fuss about my morning of waiting.
My BFF’s manicure was scheduled for 11.30 am, therefore, that didn’t happen either. By noon, we were having a wonderful time in town, buying clothes and drinking the world’s greatest mango lassi. It’s been reported in the media that Graziella’s daughter discovered her mother’s body at her home at about 12.10 pm.
We learned of the tragedy the following afternoon, on Saturday, as we were driving to the airport for our return flights home. Had the lovely military man we’d befriended not sent me a text telling us that the media had been to Authenticity to interview the director, we may never have known of Graziella’s murder. The bad news was utterly shocking and devastating to us.
I felt really affected by Graziella’s murder and mulled over it on the plane home. I thought about how I waited for her to do my nail as she lay dead or dying. Wondering where she was. Feelings of inconvenience, and how in stark contrast she’d worked in a lovely sanctuary called Authenticity; and about the uncanny synchronicities leading me to a greater awareness of domestic violence.
In me, Graziella knew she had an intuit, and in spirit, she was still busy wanting to help others. For the week following my return to Perth, I felt her spiritual presence many times. I was then working for a very influential parliamentarian whose inbox I filled with domestic violence information. Once I had done this and spoken directly with the MP about the tragedy, I felt Graziella’s spirit leave me.
In Australia, every week a woman is killed by domestic violence. In the US, it’s four women a day. Worldwide, millions of women suffer violence every year. Domestic violence is overwhelmingly committed by men against women – however, there are many girls and boys, teens, men, and the elderly who are also victims.
Domestic violence is physical, sexual, psychological, and/or financial abuse committed by a current or former partner or family member, and it often occurs at home – in the private domain. However, in one way or another, domestic violence affects all of us and the fabric of our society, and so it ought to be everybody’s business to understand it and to help resolve it.
The day following the discovery of Ms. Graziella Daillér’s body at her Encounter Bay home in South Australia, Victoria’s Labor leader Daniel Andrews pledged a Royal Commission into Family Violence – the first in Australia. He is now Premier of Victoria and was true to his word.
On Sunday 22 February 2015, the Governor of Victoria appointed a Chair and two Deputy Commissioners to the Royal Commission into Family Violence. The Commission is due to provide its report and recommendations by Tuesday 29 March 2016.
In South Australia, Ms. Daillér’s three young adult children, Natasha, Adelaide, and Vincent, still await an outcome to their request for a coronial inquest into their mother’s death. Her body was laid to rest in her birthplace of Corsica, France.
Domestic violence thrives when we are silent. If you are suffering abuse, please ask for help.
Call a free and confidential domestic violence hotline in your country: Australia: If you’re in danger call 000 or 1800RESPECT on 1800-737-732 / New Zealand: If you’re in danger call 111 or 0508-744-633 / USA: If you’re in danger call 911 or 1800-799-SAFE on 1-800-799-7233 / Canada: If you’re in danger call 911 or 1-800-363-9010 / UK: If you’re in danger call 999 or 0800-2000-247