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, who went missing after visiting her mother in Hemel Hempstead in May last year, had finally found the courage to walk away from the man who had controlled and 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, who also grew up in the family home in Hemel.
But it was too late. Less than two weeks later Natalie was dead, brutally killed by Paul Hemming. The 43-year-old had killed Natalie in a fit of jealous rage in the living room of their Milton Keynes home, before dumping her body in woodland near Hemel.
"As soon as I got the call from mum saying Natalie had gone missing, I knew she was dead," said Joanne, aged 39. "And I knew Paul had killed her. I just got this awful feeling in the pit of my stomach.
“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 moved for a job at a Mercedes dealership in MK, the family was 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.”
Hemming is now behind bars, sentenced to life with orders to serve a minimum of 20 years.
And Joanne is bringing up two of Natalie’s children, two girls aged 12 and four, alongside her own four children in Yorkshire. The third child, a seven-year-old boy, is being cared for by Natalie’s other sister Kerry.
“We’re doing okay. We all support each other and everybody is there for everybody else. We’re that kind of family,” said Joanne.
But 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 Hempstead 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 Joanne.
Now 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.
And the family did not hesitate when they were asked to feature in the show.
“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.