Love Shouldn’t Hurt with Kellie Carter-Bell

I have overcome and broken the cycle of 23 years domestic violence including my ex husband trying to kill me. Today I am a thriving survivor with a passion to pay my 23 years forward. I am a mother if 5 and and a grandmother of 4.

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More About Kellie’s Story

Falling for one brute is a mistake, two violent men suggests a pattern but four? Should she take some responsibility?

Before you pass judgment let’s look at her story.

The scars on Kellie’s face have finally faded and while the psychological ones remain she is determined they will not define her.

When her husband finally came to kill it was no surprise. For weeks he had been telling her what would happen, even down to the clothes he would wear on the day he planned to be their last on earth. By then she was so defeated she couldn’t even run – and so she waited at the bottom of the cliff for the inevitable avalanche.

Domestic violence survivor Kellie Carter-Bell talked to crime reporter John Sylvester about years of horror at the hands of her former husband, who is now dead.

Photograph Paul Jeffers
The Age NEWS
6 Apr 2016

Domestic violence survivor Kellie Carter-Bell talked to crime reporter John Sylvester about years of horror at the hands of her former husband, who is now dead. Photograph Paul Jeffers The Age NEWS 6 Apr 2016

In one way she didn’t have a chance. Kellie was one of six sisters. Three of them are now dead – one from suicide and two from drug overdoses. And she was dragged into a world of murder, corruption and drug trafficking when one of her sisters married the notorious Melbourne gangster Dennis Bruce Allen.

Her “father” was a crook who disappeared when she was young and for much of her early years she was left to fend for herself when she was locked out of the family’s Carlton Housing Commission flat.

By the time she was 13, and desperate for affection, she fell for a local boy a few years older who was the brother of a star AFL footballer.

By then to her violence was not an aberration. It was as routine as a morning cup of coffee. Such as when she was punched at a local park because she passed the footy back to the star brother rather than her jealous boyfriend.


“I was beaten regularly and would go to school with two black eyes,” she says.

“When you come from that sort of life any man who shows you affection you think you love.” And a punch in the face was part of the package, or so she thought.

A series of men eroded her self-belief to the point she felt so worthless she believed what they told her – that it was somehow her fault and she deserved to be bashed.

And little wonder when in 1981 her elder sister Sissy (by then a heroin addict) married the seriously unhinged Dennis Allen inside Pentridge Prison.

Once released Allen became one of the biggest drug dealers in Australia making between $70,000 and $100,000 a week while on bail for a staggering 60 offences.


He kept out of jail by providing information to police and bribing those who would cop a brown paper bag filled with cash.

The Allen family used schoolgirl Kellie as a drug courier to smuggle heroin to Sissy, by then an inmate at Fairlea Women’s Prison.

Allen was a ruthless, rich psychopath suspected of at least 11 killings. He and his brother, Victor Pierce, once used a chainsaw to dismember bikie Anton Kenny in the garage of one of their Richmond properties. No wonder Allen was known as Mr Death.

In what he considered an act of hijinks Victor chased his wife Wendy around the house waving Kenny’s big toe.

Sissy was beaten, brutalised and treated as a slave. Allen once bashed her with a gun butt and left her in the boot of a car, instructing she should be dumped in an industrial rubbish bin.


Another time for some reason he left her overnight chained to the washing machine. Sissy saw death as her only escape and in 1986 hanged herself in the same prison where she married.

Allen died the following year when his black heart became diseased through chronic drug abuse.

Kellie made the same mistake, marrying the volatile career crook John Marshall inside Pentridge. She was 19 and easily influenced – he was years older and beyond redemption.

Marshall was part of the infamous Heidelberg rape crew that hunted down and attacked young women in the northern suburb. (One member was Peter David McEvoy, later charged and acquitted of the murders of Walsh Street police Steven Tynan and Damian Eyre. McEvoy was scum then and time has not improved him).

Marshall declared his love for Kellie and claimed he was innocent of the rapes. She believed him because, like a beaten dog, she responded pathetically to the slightest affection.


At this point the reader would be excused for thinking Kellie is some sort of serial loser, lurching from one violent man to another.

The reality is she is smart, funny, driven and decent. It just took her decades to find herself, but more of that later.

When Marshall was released they both reverted to type. They had four children and he verbally bullied her while she accepted it as the natural order.

Eventually Marshall was implicated in a murder when he helped a mate dispose of the body of a man killed in Fitzroy. He became a police witness and the family was relocated to Brisbane.

When he pulled a knife and thrust it against her back deep enough to draw blood even she knew it was time to take the children and go.


She moved to a refuge and took out an intervention order, which was about as useful as a parasol in a blizzard.

He broke in and slashed her clothes, then the four tyres on her car. For six weeks he taunted Kellie, telling her he would come to the shop where she worked to kill her then kill himself.

He even told her what he would be wearing, clothes bought for him by his children for Father’s Day.

Then she saw him walk in to the store where she was working, wearing the clothes. The kids were outside in his car, the engine still idling. He attacked, slashing her face, arms and back and then plunged the knife into his heart.

Doctors at the local hospital somehow saved his life. Weeks later there was a double page spread in the paper about the miracle operation. “There was no mention of what he did to me,” she says.


He was sentenced to a minimum of nine years and served just over seven.

Kellie returned to Melbourne with the kids but lived in fear, expecting him to return and finish the job.

Earlier this year he died of cancer and for the first time in years she can now sit in a public space without her back to a wall or shudder when she washes knives in the kitchen sink.

There were more abusive relationships however until one day she looked in the mirror to see two black eyes and thought, “I don’t deserve this; I’m better than this.”

It took another two years to free herself from the past and for the past decade she has normalised her life. She works, spends time with her family, studies in her spare time and is violence-free.


One of the many challenges we face as a community if we are to really address family violence is to stop victim blaming.

Women who have been beaten will not always act the way we think they should. Some will return to the abuse, either because they don’t see an alternative or they want to believe the offender will finally stop.

“They don’t change, you have to change,” Kellie says, a lesson it took decades for her to learn.

She says fear is a driver and that you don’t report the attacks to police because you anticipate the consequences. “You think, Oh my God the beating you will cop tomorrow will really hurt.”

With arrogance we think we can judge from afar by seeing the destination without knowing the journey.


Judi Kane’s husband, Leslie Herbert Kane, was a violent gangster murdered in 1978 and his body was never found. Judi is a decent woman who just fell for the wrong bloke.

Since his death she has run her own business and brought up her family well away from the world of crime.

Another woman married to a gangster killed in the Underbelly wars has changed her name and ditched her old life, confiding to a friend, “What was I thinking?”

And back to Kellie. It has taken years for her to break away from a life always shadowed by violence and fear. “I love my life now. Finally I am free.”

Her dream is to stop young people from making her mistakes.


She wants to help educate them into making the right choices in choosing friends and partners.

“I would love to get into schools to promote healthy relationships.”

She is now 47 years old and no longer a victim. She is a survivor. (source The Age)

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