'He beat her so badly she was unrecognisable' Daughters 'heartbroken' after mother murdered by abusive partner

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  • Watch the report by ITV Wales reporter Kate Lewis

*Warning: Article contains detail some readers may find distressing*

The daughters of a woman who was murdered by her partner have described the pain of watching their mother become a "helpless" victim of domestic abuse.

Helen Bannister died from brain injuries in December last year after suffering years of "terror" at the hands of her abuser Jonathan Campbell.

On 1 December 2020, the mother-of-two was brutally attacked by Campbell who left her unconscious on a sofa and headed out for a day of drinking.

Campbell, of Mayhill in Swansea, had undressed unresponsive Helen and bathed her before booking himself into a local hotel with another woman.

The court heard how he was seen on CCTV walking around Swansea Marina "smoking cannabis and drinking alcohol" before finally calling 999 to admit what he had done.

He told the call-handler that Ms Bannister was "outers on the sofa".

Jonathan Campbell was sentenced to life in prison for murder. Credit: South Wales Police

Emergency services arrived at the property to find Helen, unconscious and in need of urgent medical care.

One of Helen's daughters, Stacey Harris told ITV News that if Campbell made the 999 straightaway, then their "beautiful" mother would still be alive.

Instead, Helen did not regain consciousness and died in hospital six days after the assault.

Injuries recorded at the hospital in addition to the fatal brain injuries included a nasal fracture and fractured eye socket, two black eyes, multiple rib fractures and a collapsed lung.

Stacey and Sarah Davies said their mum was "unrecognisable" when they saw her lying in her hospital bed.

This video contains distressing images

"I fell to the floor. They pre-warned me and told me that she was really swollen", Stacey recalled.

"They said, 'You're not going to recognise her, she's got really bad injuries', but it was all a blur. I remember the nurse walking with me hand in hand and as soon as I saw her, I fell to pieces. I didn't even recognise my own mother."

Helen had suffered years of abuse at the hands of Campbell after they met online in 2014.

In May 2019, Stacey and Sarah received a frantic call saying they needed to get to their mother's house urgently.

When they arrived, Helen was covered in petrol.

Campbell had doused her and was threatening to set fire to the house she was in.

He was arrested and charged with affray.

But this was not the first or the the last time Helen would be a victim to his abuse.

Stacey recalled the moment she visited her mother in hospital before she died

Stacey recalled telling her mum that she would "end up in a body bag" the next time he touched her.

Sarah never saw her mum alive after that.

At the start of Helen and Campbell's relationship, her daughters recalled how their mother seemed "happy".

Stacey described their relationship as being "normal".

The 22-year-old said her mum was always "on the top of the world", although the pair would often drink excessively.

Helen with her two daughters Stacey and Sarah.

In 2016, things changed, and he started to show signs of aggression and violence.

After an argument, Campbell "smashed the house up and gave her two black eyes."

This would be the start of years of "terror" and abuse.

This video contains distressing images

Stacey said, "My mum, she's really got a big heart, and she's very forgiving, she's always been the one to give people second chances. But obviously she shouldn't have, ever."

Stacey described her mum and best friend as being "crazy, happy and the life of the party" until she met Campbell.

Over time, Stacey and Sarah started to notice changes to Helen's, once happy, personality.

The sisters said she was "sad" all the time, and "wasn't my mother anymore".

Both of them spent years witnessing their mother become "helpless" and a victim of domestic abuse.

Now, they are wanting to speak out, saying "no-one should suffer behind closed doors like our mum did."

Jonathan Campbell, 37, was sentenced to life in prison on 17 May at Swansea Crown Court for the murder of Helen Bannister.

He will serve a minimum of 18 years.

After sentencing, Detective Inspector David Butt of South Wales Police’s Major Crime Investigations Team, said "no person" should have had to suffer the kind of abuse Ms Bannister was subjected to.

“I hope the sentence handed down to him today will provide a degree of comfort to Helen’s family, though I recognise that no amount of time in prison could ever properly compensate them for such a dreadful loss.

“I would like to thank Helen’s family and friends, especially her daughters Stacey and Sarah for their support, as well as the community of Waun Wen, Swansea. The help given to the investigation team has ensured this successful prosecution and conviction.

“South Wales Police is committed to tackling domestic abuse and I would strongly urge anyone who is a victim of domestic abuse to report it to police. We recognise that not all victims of domestic abuse suffer physical injury. They suffer from the threat and fear of injury, daily intimidation and having their life monitored and controlled."

If you or someone you know is affected by domestic abuse visit the Live Fear Free website or call the helpline on 0808 80 10 800.

Hafan Cymru offers independent domestic violence advisor services, housing support and training on understanding and dealing with domestic abuse. Contact: 01267 225 555.

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