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By Louie Smith, Adam Aspinall
The Facebook message made dad Karl Siirak’s heart jump.
At the very instant he saw the words “Have you heard the news?” he feared something dreadful had happened to his four children.
The reality was just as shocking – his ex-wife had been arrested for murder. And as details emerged of the horrific crime, Karl’s shock turned to disbelief and disgust. Had the happy, sweet woman he’d loved and wed really turned into someone capable of killing a defenceless 67-year-old grandfather? Appallingly, the answer was yes.
This week his ex Kelly Barnes, 32, and her civil partner Jodie, 31, were jailed for life after being found guilty of murdering retired bus conductor Barry Reeve. Medics say he took up to 48 hours to die. But not before his killers ransacked his home, tried to empty his bank account and even returned to raid his freezer for food.
Now Karl, 41, has spoken for the first time of his ex’s descent into a dark world of drugs, violence and eventually murder. He said: “The transformation was like beauty to beast. You couldn’t believe it if you’d ever known her.”
He still vividly remembers finding out what happened. “I got a Facebook message a week after the killing. “I immediately thought the worst and feared the kids were in trouble but then heard Kelly was arrested for murder. “I was in a daze for a week, in total shock. I still am. I can’t get my head around how that sweet 17-year-old girl I met all that time ago could get involved in something so evil.”
The pair met in 1997 when Karl was living alone and working as a security guard in Norwich after moving away from his home town of Barry, South Wales.
“I saw this pretty girl move in below me, got talking and offered to help decorate her flat,” he said. “She had just moved away from home but was very independent and it wasn’t like she needed help.
“My first impression of Kelly was that she was very friendly and attractive. She had this bouncy, bubbly personality that drew you in.” Karl told how they bonded over their difficult childhoods and quickly fell in love. The pair married at a Norwich register office on May 22, 1999, and had four children.
“We were playing happy families and I was loving every minute,” said Karl. But he fought tears as he recalled how his wife descended into a life of sex, drugs and violence.
After only 18 months of wedded bliss, he found himself the victim of her vicious temper and mood swings. “She’d get very angry, then lash out and hurt me,” he said. “I never knew when it would happen.
“She took a cocktail of anti-depressants but the fights were becoming more violent and sometimes police had to be called.”
The couple split and Kelly kept the children – while seeking help for her growing drink problem.
The pair divorced in 2005. It was then that Karl began to hear talk of Kelly being involved in sex romps with both men and women – and that she was into hard drugs.
“She was always open with me over her lesbian tendencies, but as far as I knew never acted on them in our marriage,” he said.
“Now I worried at tales of her all-night parties, sex and boozing. “It was on one visit to see the kids in 2005 I realised things had gone off the rails when Kelly and a female pal of hers beat me up badly for no reason.
“She was no longer the woman I’d wed and had become this paranoid, violent person who’d lash out at any moment.”
It was around then that Kelly met her future wife Jodie – who Karl claims got her on to hard drugs.
He said: “I’d never had an issue with Kelly’s attraction to other women but it was when Jodie came on to the scene that things became horrendous.”
Kelly and Jodie – who married during a civil wedding in August 2010 – had been involved in a volatile on-off relationship for years, said Karl.
He went on: “There was something evil about Jodie. I should have known it from the start. “But she held the key to seeing my kids so I tried to pretend all this wasn’t happening. She totally dominated Kelly and controlled every aspect of her life to the point where Kelly was not allowed to use a phone without Jodie’s permission.
“Then there was the drug-taking. After they’d sold everything in the house for drugs, they started selling the children’s toys – that’s how low they stooped.”
At one point the penniless pair were even forced to live in a tent in woods on the outskirts of Norwich with the four children for more than two months.
At the trial, Jodie Barnes admitted they spent up to £400 a week on heroin and cocaine – but on the day of the murder they had no money.
The jury heard how the pair targeted Mr Reeve because they had heard he had a secret cash hoard.
As they tortured him with a knife, the vile pair even turned up the volume of his TV to drown out his screams.
The savagely cut dad of two, who suffered severe brain damage, was left lying in a pool of blood and died of hypothermia.
His body was not found for 17 days.
His murderers turned on each other in the trial at Norwich crown court, where they were jailed for a minimum of 24 years.
Karl said he still struggles to come to terms with such evil.
“When I read what they’d done I was sickened,” he said.
“They were so brutal I can’t comprehend that the mother of my children would have willingly gone along with it without being bullied.
“But when you know what Jodie was like it somehow feels inevitable that something evil would happen at some point.
“I’m sad Kelly ended up like this and my heart goes out to the victim’s family. It’s a tragedy for everybody involved.”