Page last updated at 16:27 GMT, Tuesday, 28 July 2009 17:27 UK

How 'kind' boyfriend became violent bully

By Mark McGregor
BBC News, Manchester

Ricardo Morrison
Ricardo Morrison had been abusing his girlfriend for months

When Ricardo Morrison told Amy Leigh Barnes' father, Andrew, that he would look after his "princess", he saw no reason to doubt him.

Initially polite and respectful, Morrison struck Amy's family as a kind, charming and above all, quiet, young man.

But evidence of his controlling, violent nature soon began to emerge and, to the dismay of her family, he began to take over 19-year-old Amy's life.

Within nine months Amy was dead, brutally murdered by the man who claimed they were planning a future together - but who in reality could not bear to be rejected.

She repeatedly said how much she loved him and we were worried that if we pushed him away we would push Amy away
Dawn Halton-Barnes, stepmother

"We were all aware that the relationship wasn't a healthy relationship," said Dawn Halton-Barnes, Amy's stepmother.

"Obviously we didn't realise the potential of what Ricardo Morrison could do."

What Amy's family were completely unaware of was Morrison's violent nature and history of violence against women.

He had four previous convictions for assault and one for harassing an ex-girlfriend.

Amy began dating Morrison in early 2008, telling her mother Karyn Killiner she was excited about embarking on her first relationship with the 22-year-old.

After spending a few weekends at the family home in Bolton, Morrison suddenly moved up from Birmingham to spend more time with the teenager.

Amy Leigh Barnes

"We could see that there were a few arguments but nothing that worried us. We thought it was normal as they were a young couple learning to live together," said Mrs Killiner.

It was when Mrs Killiner and Amy's stepfather, John, went on holiday in July that they knew something was wrong.

"At five am we were in Italy and I got a phone call and he was screaming down the phone at me and said to get Amy to call him," said her mother.

"I phoned Amy and she said there had been an incident the night before when they were out in Bolton and he assaulted her."

After also abusing emergency services staff, Morrison was arrested after the incident in July but Amy reassured her family that she was safe.

Unbeknown to them, the amateur footballer was jealous of Amy's lifestyle and popularity among her friends, who included a number of professional players.

He is an absolute monster and no language can describe him
Karyn Killiner, mother

If she went on a night out without him, Morrison would send Amy abusive text messages telling her he "hoped she got raped".

Arguments at home would descend into violence with Morrison hitting his girlfriend, holding knives to her throat, or smothering her with pillows.

But throughout this period Amy would not tell her family the extent of the abuse and denied Morrison would even hurt her so, her father believes, that they would not be upset.

"She would rather battle through it herself," said Mr Barnes.

His wife, Mrs Halton-Barnes added: "She repeatedly said how much she loved him and we were worried that if we pushed him away we would push Amy away.

"So we knew we had to accept him at some level until Amy was ready to make that decision."

Andrew Barnes

Amy Leigh Barnes was murdered in November last year

It was weeks before her death that Amy did summon up the courage to ask her family for help and begin the process of removing Morrison from her life.

She had ordered him to leave the home they shared and asked for help from her mother, who contacted Fortalice - a charity which helps victims of domestic abuse.

But in the weeks before her death Amy was "deteriorating to the point she could not function", said Mrs Killiner, who believed that her daughter was still withholding information to protect her.

"She feared for her life. I had various text messages that were threatening from him, and I believe that she feared for my life too," she said.

On the night she was killed, Amy said she had told Morrison that he was not going to control her any more. His reaction was to stab her repeatedly before leaving her dying on the floor of their home.

"I want the world to know what he is like. He was a conman and he integrated himself into our family," Mrs Killiner added.

"He is an absolute monster and no language can describe him."

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