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Nikitah Beadman thought Robert Galleghan was the man of her dreams: Twelve years her senior, he was a good-natured gentleman who wooed her and showered her with gifts. With his charm, he easily worked his way into her young heart.

Little did the teenager know she’d fallen in love with a man who would become one of the most evil predators in Australian criminal history. Speaking out in the hope her story will help others, Nikitah, now 21, will never forget the night the man she once believed to be her soulmate almost killed her.

“No one should ever have to endure what happened to me. My story is what they make horror movies about – except mine was real,” Nikitah tells Woman’s Day magazine exclusively from her home in Gold Coast.

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It was a balmy night in November 2012, when then 17-year-old Nikitah attended a “party” at Robert’s house on a remote property in southeast Queensland. She had tried to end their year-long relationship after he had become increasingly aggressive, and hoped attending would keep things amicable.

When Nikitah arrived at around 8.30 pm, Robert was there along with friends, and already drunk. He began yelling abusive words at her, and soon his threats turned physical.

“Things got ugly – he threw me against a wall and smashed my head on a coffee table,” she recalls. “His friends tried to stop him and he threatened them with a knife – they fled.”

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Nikitah was left alone, her 42 kg frame no match for him. “I knew what was going to happen. In the past he’d made many threats he would kill me and bury me where no one would find me, and I knew he would,” she says.

“The only way I knew I might survive was to remain calm and continue to pacify him. I toyed with a few escape plans – should I make a run for it, or grab a knife – but they were too risky.

“There was an abandoned shipping container in the backyard. He picked me up and carried me in there, and I remember thinking, ‘I’m going to die here tonight’.”

Robert tied her to a trolley with wire, wrapping it around her neck so tightly she could barely breathe. He gagged her with her own underwear, wired a yoga mat around her head to muffle her screams, and then raped and tortured her before leaving her to die.

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“I couldn’t breathe and kept praying,” says Nikitah. “I had an out-of-body experience, and I know I died and left this world for a brief time.”

Her prayers were answered when police sergeants Peter Venz and Danny Rahe arrived and knocked on the front door. They had responded to an emergency 000 call made by Robert’s friends, who had left earlier.

“Robert opened the door and was chillingly calm, relaying a convoluted story about a drug deal gone wrong, which was why the 000 call was made,” Sergeant Rahe says. “But we were determined to search the property – we had a gut feeling. something was wrong”

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When the policeman opened the shipping container, what they found there has haunted them ever since. “It was the most horrific thing we’ve ever seen in this job,” says seasoned officer Sergeant Rahe. “Nothing could’ve prepared us for it. The scene we were looking at was just so depraved. To call it distressing would be an understatement.”

Both men believe if they were a minute later, Nikitah wouldn’t have made it. Robert was charged with torture, common assault and threatening violence, and in August this year was sentenced to eight years in jail – though he could be eligible for parole in three years.

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Nikitah’s attacker continues to haunt her, even while he’s in custody. In December 2012, the month after the assault, she received a disturbing seven-page letter from him, smuggled from jail through a charity worker.

“Just wanted to say sorry and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I know you hate me but I still love you and will never forget the times we shared,” he wrote.

“I never saw any signs of the monster in the early days – I was completely hoodwinked,” says Nikitah. “He’d buy me gifts, and if we saw someone having it tough he’d buy a grocery voucher for them. He’d stop the car to help old ladies cross the road.”

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Yet along with his shows of kindness was a man who would call Nikitah vile names, then apologise. A man who’d push and shove her, and who isolated her from her friends.

Reflecting on the relationship, Nikitah realises she was trapped in a cycle of abuse. “When a person is abusive, we tell ourselves they’ll change, but they never do,” she says.

While Nikitah is now much stronger psychologically, she has been left with lasting injuries: A twisted backbone, two rotated ribs and chronic nerve damage. She also doesn’t know if she’ll ever be able to have kids.

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“Nothing will ever mend the emotional and physical scars, but they will be eased if speaking out can save lives. If one person makes the brave step to leave, my work is done,” says Nikitah, who plans to educate students about domestic violence.

“Not a day passes where I don’t count my blessings and remind myself I’m one of the lucky survivors – who found the light at the end of a very dark tunnel.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual assault, or domestic or family violence, you can call these numbers: AWARE helpline at 1800-774-5935; Project Start at 6476 1482; or Pave at 6555 0390.

Text: Lizzie Wilson / Photos of Nikitah Beadman: Phillip Castleton/ / Featured Image: by model

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