Trapped in body bag for 3 days: victim speaks out

4th October 2020 8:00 AM
UPDATED 5th October 5:30 AM
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Shirley Smith couldn't move, couldn't see outside and couldn't go to the bathroom.

All she had was a pocket of air to breathe and a straw to sip water.

Shirley was trapped in a body bag for three horrendous days after her partner, the man she once loved, held a shotgun to her head and screamed: "The only way you're leaving mother f---er is in a body bag, get in."

Through a broken Zoom call from a hidden location, Shirley spoke publicly for the first time about the horrendous ordeal two years ago.

Her name is not real to protect her from the potential repercussions of sharing her story.

And her case is among the thousands of women who never reported the abuse because, Shirley says, any police presence just would have made matters worse.

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The 32-year-old had every ounce of power stripped from her in the 16 years she was with her partner.

She was tortured, both physically and mentally, isolated and helpless.

She says she often preferred the beating over the constant emotional abuse she endured.

"I would have copped a thousand hidings rather than some of the things he would say," she says.

But nothing can compare to the nine children Shirley has lost before they were born due to the horrific violence.

She says "her little angels", the only children she'll ever have, will stay with her forever.

"I will carry them with me until the day I die," she says.

Shirley grew up in a small country town in NSW. Domestic violence, she says, was common.

The men who'd go home to beat their partners had power and connections, making it more difficult for their victims to flee.

When Shirley met her partner, who the Daily is not identifying in order to protect her, she said he was charming and gentle.

It wasn't until the couple moved in together that the abuse started.

Shirley says even though she's been free from him for two years, most people close to her still have no idea how much danger she was in.

In 2018, shortly after Shirley escaped, police released several warrants for her partner's arrest for drug and traffic offences.

He was eventually jailed but has to this day not faced domestic violence charges.

In her book, Becoming a Queen Again, Shirley writes every day became about survival.

She says she would steal and traffic drugs to avoid her partner's wrath.

"I know I've done things that I'm not proud of, but there was a choice: do it or cop the hiding," she tells the Daily.

Shirley says she would be dead today if a lawyer who knew her story hadn't grabbed her by the arm and told her to "run".

Her heart-wrenching escape happened just over a month after she was released from the body bag.

She went to court to meet her partner's lawyer in his place.

It was the first time she'd been let out of the house in a month.

What followed was weeks of jumping from hotel to hotel, travelling by public transport across states under an alias and living in constant fear the man she once loved would find and kill her.

She spent eight months in a women's refuge on the Sunshine Coast, run by Sunny Kids, until she moved interstate.

For now she is living a happy life.

Shirley's words were full of determination when shared her story.

Her voice only broke when she recalled the days she lost yet another child.

She decided to speak up because she wants others not to suffer like she has.

She says anyone in an unsafe relationship should carefully plan their escape and reach out to support services.

"It took me 16 years and three-and-a-half months to finally leave and I won't sugar coat it … it was f---ing hard," Shirley writes in her book.

"But it's a new step, a new life, a safer one."

Shirley no longer wakes up with bruises.

She's not locked in her own home and she has more control over her life than ever.

She knows her ex may never stop looking for her.

But she is determined to live happy, safe and free.

"I have to do what I have to do to survive every day … because if he presents himself, I'm not walking away," she says.

"Now, I have to watch myself. I have to watch my back."

If this story has affected you or if you or someone you know is unsafe at home, please call DVConnect on 1800 811 811.

The names in this story have been changed to protect those involved.