Amanda Harris was growing increasingly concerned about her partner Daniel Eckersley.
Ever since having an accident at his work as a baker three years earlier in 2015, Daniel had been taking medication for the pain in his knee.
But as he struggled to get the pain under control, Daniel started taking more than the recommended dose and mixing them with antidepressants and too much alcohol.
His behaviour was growing worryingly erratic and Amanda was convinced it was all coming to a crisis point.
She just didn’t know when that would happen, and what it might be.
Childcare worker Amanda, 36, and Daniel, 38, had been together for 17 years.
They had three children aged nine, five, and one and lived together in Cranbourne North, in Melbourne, Australia.
After his workplace injury, Daniel had started taking the opioid painkiller tramadol that had been prescribed to him by his GP – but he was taking far more than the recommended amount as he tried to get the pain under control. His drug abuse was getting out of control.
Daniel had been unable to keep working and struggled to cope so he’d been given antidepressants, too.
The painkillers, mixed with antidepressants and his heavy drinking habits, was a toxic combination. By July 2018, Daniel was tearful, agitated and more depressed than usual. Amanda was worried.
During their relationship, Daniel had been the more controlling of the pair. Her family would later say Daniel’s behaviour had even driven a wedge between them and Amanda, but it was clear the caring wife was now trying to help Daniel in his hour of need.
Was he in danger of harming himself? Amanda certainly believed that was a risk by the way he was behaving.
Daniel was growing increasingly paranoid and started to think that the neighbours were breaking into his home.
He even thought he could talk to the dead. Devoted wife Amanda wanted to help him out of his downward spiral but he continued to abuse his medication.
At the start of July, Amanda took her husband to the doctor, who acknowledged Daniel was struggling but didn’t believe he was a threat to himself.
Amanda even reached out to Daniel’s family, telling them she believed he was having a breakdown – even family members he hadn’t spoken to in years.
Then, on July 7, the crisis point came and it was worse than anything Amanda could ever have imagined. Out of nowhere, Daniel grabbed a hammer and started smashing up the kitchen in their home.
Terrified Amanda realised that Daniel wasn’t a threat to himself – he was now a threat to her.
Daniel had told a friend that he believed his wife was trying to poison him and the kids. Did he tell his wife that as he started to slam open the cupboard doors?
Daniel started to clear out their kitchen cupboards, sending food and crockery hurtling to the floor. He yanked open the fridge and pulled out the contents. Using the hammer, he crushed items and threw everything in the bin.
Amanda and Daniel’s children heard their parents arguing. If only that had been where it had ended. Instead, Daniel grabbed a kitchen knife and started to lunge at Amanda.
Their son tried to intervene, but Daniel kicked him away, sending him hurtling across the room and then went on to stab his wife multiple times in the head, neck and chest.
Using a cigarette lighter, Daniel then set fire to the sofa and he let the flames rise. Perhaps he believed that it would cover what he’d done as he bundled their three kids and the family dog into the car and fled the scene.
Neighbours saw smoke coming from the home and rushed to help. One off-duty fireman bravely went into the house and found Amanda face down, bleeding from her knife wounds.
He pulled her out of the smoke, but it soon became clear that she hadn’t been harmed in the fire – Amanda had died from a knife wound to the chest.
By now, Daniel was on the run. He broke into a friend’s home, burned his clothes and told the kids that, if any one asked, they should say their mum had killed herself.
Daniel was tracked down hours later, taken into custody and charged with murder. When questioned by police, Daniel said he’d had a psychotic episode. He said he truly believed that Amanda was poisoning him and their kids.
The psychotic episode had seemingly passed quickly, as he’d watched TV in his friend’s home. But Daniel continued to use it as his defence.
In 2019, Daniel pleaded guilty to murdering Amanda. The court heard how Daniel was suffering from a recognised medication-induced psychosis.
His lawyer conceded the crime was a ‘nasty example of domestic murder’ and said that Amanda’s death was ‘utterly senseless’ and ‘completely undeserved’.
But they insisted that it had been a result of Daniel’s episode. While he had prior convictions for assault, he’d never shown violence toward Amanda before.
The prosecution pointed out that Daniel had been controlling during the relationship and had been agitated in the days leading up to the killing. Amanda had reached out several times for help but was left dealing with the crisis alone.
In January this year, at Daniel’s sentencing, Amanda’s mother Christine Harris screamed names at her daughter’s killer and wept through proceedings. Amanda’s sister, Louise Flynn, told the court she felt cheated and angry that she never got to say goodbye to her sister, whose death was ‘unbearable’.
‘How could the one person who was meant to love her and be a role model to her children take her life away?’ she asked. ‘I just don’t understand it.’
The judge was equally damning at the savage act against an innocent and defenceless woman
‘Having committed this awful crime, you did not then help… but acted to destroy her body and the scene by attempting to burn down your home with her body in it,’ he said.
‘You treated your children callously after they had witnessed your brutality by driving them away and telling them to tell others Ms Harris had committed suicide… The impact on your children of seeing you murder their mother is difficult to fully imagine.’
But the judge accepted that Daniel was suffering the effects of his medication that were ‘rare but recognised’.
‘It must be clearly acknowledged that when you committed this horrible and intensely violent crime, you were in a severe acute psychotic state,’ he said.
The judge said that needless of the cause, Daniel had destroyed his own family and killed a loving mother because of his drug abuse. He sentenced Daniel to 18 years in prison and told he would be eligible for parole after 14 years.
Daniel wept at the news and the judge recommended that more research be done into the potential lethal side effects of medication.
Amanda had known there was a storm coming but she never believed she would be the one caught in the middle of it.