Mother-of-four died protecting her children from her knife-wielding ex-husband — (The Mirror)

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The Mirror

 08:00, 5 Apr 2015

By Gail Shortland

Angela Ferullo risked everything to protect her growing family from danger…

Angela with daughters Letticia and Selina

Bursting with pride, devoted mum and grandmother Angela Ferullo smiled for photos with family members at her baby granddaughter’s christening.

She appeared to chat happily with the other guests, but behind her smiles, Angela was scared.

She’d been having problems with her volatile ex-husband James Payet and, consumed with worry, she slipped away from the celebrations early because he’d threatened to turn up and physically harm her and her family.

Angela was right to be scared; the very next day, she would give her life to protect them…

Mum-of-four Angela, 43, had three daughters and one son. She co-owned a hairdressing salon called Plush Hair in Perth, Australia, with one of her daughters, Selina Bello.

Selina was five months pregnant with her first child and Angela’s other daughter, Letitia, had a young baby girl called Sierra.

A dangerous man

James Bill Payet had been a step-dad to Selina and Letitia for 12 years before he separated from their mum in 2011 after Angela had an affair.

Despite getting divorced, Angela allowed James to stay in the home she rented with another male colleague from her work. Perhaps she felt guilty about the breakdown of their marriage – but it was a mistake.

Angela and her ex husband James in happier times

James was struggling with depression and substance abuse. He threatened Angela with a knife, then said he’d slit his own throat if she called the police.

He began to send abusive texts, and at one point he’d made Angela believe that he’d destroyed her late-mother’s ashes. Then, when she went away for the weekend with a new boyfriend, James set fire to her wedding dress.

Police had warned James about his behaviour but he wasn’t listening. Things came to a head when Letitia arranged a christening for baby Sierra. James wasn’t invited and in the days leading up to the event, he told Angela he was going to cause a scene at the church.

Angela feared for the safety of her family and got a temporary 72-hour court order forcing James to move out and cease contact with her. She planned to upgrade it to a restraining order.

Angela’s last Facebook post read: “Troubled minds breed contempt… If it’s broken… Fix it… If it can’t be fixed… U know you tried… If you tried…Don’t take on the guilt that others lay out…”

On 23 June 2013, Angela attended the christening of her daughter Letitia’s baby girl at the Christ the King Church in Perth. After the service, she posed for a couple of photos before the stress became too much. She left before the after party.

Held hostage

That night, Angela stayed away from her home. It meant she had no idea that on the morning of 24 June James had gone into her house and was hiding in the roof, waiting for her to return. He had duct tape and two hunting knives.

When James realised Angela wasn’t there, he threatened Angela’s male housemate with the knife instead.

For two hours, he held him captive, trying to force him to call Angela and trick her to come home. Her housemate refused, then managed to escape by jumping over a back fence.

James gave chase to a local school where he slashed the housemate’s shoulder and arm. He escaped, but James managed to convince a passing driver to let him in the car and pursue him, claiming the housemate had broken into his home.

When they lost him, James got out of the car and made his way to the hair salon where Angela had gone to see Selina. They planned to go to court together to get the restraining order against James.

Angela’s injured housemate called police, so when James burst into the salon officers were on the phone warning Angela he was on the way. But it was too late.

Plush Hair – the scene of the murder

Horrified customers watched as James went for Selina with the knife. “Dad, Dad, the baby, the baby – don’t!” she cried, as he slashed her in the arm and leg.

Instinctively, Angela threw herself over Selina to protect her and James repeatedly stabbed her in a frenzied attack. A brave customer, Peggy Kew, 67, also tried to fend him off with a chair, but James stabbed her too.

Leaving his victims bleeding on the floor, James fled. When police arrived Angela, Selina and Peggy were rushed to the Royal Perth Hospital, but tragically Angela died from knife wounds to her chest, lungs, arms and abdomen.

Thanks to Angela, Selina was left with only minor slash wounds and her unborn baby was unharmed. She later gave birth to a healthy boy called Emilio.

A huge manhunt began for James. He was caught when he went to a local hospital with self-inflicted knife wounds.

In February 2014, James Payet, 48, pleaded guilty to the murder of Angela and causing grievous bodily harm to Selina, as well as the kidnap of Angela’s housemate and causing the aggravated unlawful wounding of the hair salon customer Mrs Kew.

Outside the court, daughter Selina was in tears as she told reporters of her relief that he’d pleaded guilty so they could move on.

Later she wrote on Facebook of her heartbreak: “Mum, not a day goes by that we don’t think about you and the great loss we have experienced. Hopefully now you can rest easy knowing that justice has and will be served. Love you always x”

In May 2014, the sentencing hearing took place. The prosecution said the attack was ‘particularly cruel’ because Angela’s daughter had witnessed her mother’s murder.

James’ representation said he was remorseful, and came from a ‘physically and emotionally’ violent family. James had a history of domestic violence, depression and drug use. He’d also stopped taking his anti-depressants.

Attempted suicide

It was revealed James had tried to kill himself after the murder, but had gone to hospital after his son texted saying he’d rather visit his dad in prison than not at all.

James was sentenced to life in prison, and ordered to serve a minimum of 25 years. Justice Lindy Jenkins said it was hard to imagine how traumatised Selina had been after her father figure attacked her with a knife, then killed her mother.

She said: “You allowed your rage to build and permitted it to spill over. You attempted to kill yourself primarily because you thought your life was not worth living, not because you were remorseful.”

For Angela, her children were her life, and she sacrificed everything she had to save them.