The family of murdered Natalie Hemming have spoken out for the first time about their anguish in a bid to save other domestic abuse victims from the same horrific fate.
They revealed how the 31-year-old mum of three had finally found the courage to leave the man who had bullied her for 10 years.
“She had it all planned. She was going to move into her own place with the children and was excited about starting a new life. ‘I’m really going to do it this time,” she told us,” said Natalie’s sister Joanne Beverley.
But it was too late. Less than two weeks later Natalie was dead, brutally killed by 43-year-old Paul Hemming in their Newton Leys home.
“As soon as I got the call from mum saying Natalie had gone missing, I knew she was dead. And I knew Paul had killed her.
“I just got this awful feeling in the pit of my stomach,” said Joanne, who is 39.
Today she is bringing up two of Natalie’s children, two girls aged 12 and four, alongside her own four children in her Yorkshire home.
The third child, a seven-year-old boy, is being cared for by Natalie’s other sister Kerry.
“We’re doing OK. We all support each other. We’re that kind of family,” said Joanne, who also has two brothers.
The family did not hesitate when they were asked to feature in a Channel 4 documentary, Catching a Killer, to highlight Natalie’s case.
“If telling her story can help other woman walk away from an abusive relationship then we will know that my sister did not die in vain,” said Joanne.
The true tragedy of Natalie’s death is reflected in the eyes of her mother, 73-year-old Margaret Hammond.
A frail figure sitting in a wheelchair in her pink dressing gown, she still sobs daily for her youngest daughter – her “baby”.
Margaret’s health declined drastically from the day that every mother’s nightmare came true for her.
Today she is incapable of living alone at her Hemel Hemsptead home and is cared for by her other children.
“Mum struggled with Paul Hemming from the start. None of us liked the way he treated Natalie and we all thought she’d be better without him,” said Natalie’s sister Joanne.
“We’re a large and very close family and Paul didn’t really mix with us. He always sat apart and stayed quiet at family gatherings. He even refused to go to his own children’s baptisms.”
When Natalie applied for a job at a Mercedes dealership in MK, the family were thrilled for her. But possessive Paul Hemming had other views.
“I’ll pay you to stay at home,” he told her.
Evil Hemming kept promising to marry Natalie – then called the wedding off three times, say her family.
The young mum even bought her wedding dress and told her friends she was getting married.
Eventually she changed her name to Hemming as a compromise.
But in 2013 she realised her mistake and fled to Yorkshire to live near her sister in a rented house with her three children – one of whom was from a previous relationship.
“It was so lovely, and we were all so happy,” said sister Joanne. “We thought she’d finally made the break.
“But four months later Hemming wormed his way back into her feelings and she moved back to Milton Keynes to live with him. We were all devastated.”
The Channel 4 documentary, Catching a Killer, will reveal the grim truth behind Natalie Hemming’s disappearance and murder.
To be shown on Thursday, June 1 at 9pm, it is the result of two years’ of filming with Thames Valley Police and Natalie’s bereaved family.
It reveals how the young mum went missing on May 1 last year after visiting her mum in Hemel Hempstead.
Her disappearance triggered one of the biggest missing persons searches in local force history.
It ended tragically three weeks later when Natalie’s body was found in woodland near Hemel.
Hemming, 43, had killed her in a fit of jealous rage in the living room of their Newton Leys home.
He beat her, hurled a fake Faberge egg at her head then wrapped her body in a rug before scrubbing the bloodstains from the floor.
He then bundled the body in his car and drove to the remote woods. Hemming is now behind bars, sentenced to life with orders to serve a minimum of 20 years.
The three children that Natalie Hemming adored are now being brought up by two of her sisters and living with their cousins.
All are doing well but still struggle to come to terms with the bombshell that split their family.
The little boy, now seven, suffered the most trauma as he saw the aftermath of the murder.
Natalie’s sister Joanne said: “He woke up to a loud bang that he described as “like thunder”. He came downstairs and saw his dad scrubbing the floor in the living room, while his mum’s body was wrapped up on the sofa.
“It was thanks to his evidence that police were able to discover what happened and pinpoint the exact spot where Natalie was killed.
“But obviously it is an awful lot for a seven-year-old to deal with.”
Friends and neighbours rallied round to help Natalie’s family cope with the aftermath of the tradegy.
“They were amazing and we’d like to take this opportunity to thank everybody who helped us,” said eldest sister Joanne.
People set up a fundraising page to raise cash, while families on Natalie’s estate in Milton Keynes collected a huge bundle of gifts for the children.