STACEY Klimovitch and her family were "terrorised" in a violent string of incidents leading up to her tragic murder in Stockton on Wednesday night.
Friends told the Newcastle Herald that a man had repeatedly threatened the family in the months before Ms Klimovitch was shot dead by a single blast to the chest when she answered the front door of her one-bedroom ground floor flat in Queen Street about 8pm.
They said the "beautiful soul" would have "done anything" to protect her 31-year-old daughter and eight-week-old granddaughter who were inside the flat at the time.
Her family did not see the shooting, but heard it happen.
It's understood there was a quick verbal altercation at the door of the house, that is converted into four flats, before Ms Klimovitch was shot through the screen door.
Strike Force Backhouse - a team of Newcastle detectives and State Crime Command Homicide Squad police assembled to investigate the "targeted attack" - was continuing its investigation last night.
Newcastle police commander Detective Superintendent Wayne Humphrey called for anyone who heard or saw anything in that area in the lead-up to, or after, 8pm to contact police immediately.
"It's horrendous," he said.
"An innocent person has answered the front door of a home and she's been shot in the chest and killed in the presence of a relative and a child. It doesn't get any worse."
The offender fled along Queen Street and down Little William Street that runs along the back of the flats after the shooting.
The murder follows a violent string of incidents that left the 61-year-old retired swimming teacher "scared to leave her home at times".
It's understood in the months leading up to the murder that a man broke into the daughter's home in Lake Macquarie.
"He got into the house and then taunted the family with how easy it was for him to come back," a friend said. "They were terrorised."
About three weeks ago, after the daughter and her newborn baby moved in with Ms Klimovitch, a car was targeted in a firebomb attack in Queen Street outside the flats.
Neighbours said a homemade molotov cocktail was found at the scene.
Police were unable to confirm on Thursday whether the firebombing incident was linked to their investigation.
A Stockton-based long-time friend of Ms Klimovitch's said her friend feared for the safety of her family and was terrified something like this might happen.
She said the continued threats in the lead up to the murder underscored the need for greater protection of women.
"Stacey, who everyone loved, is now another violence statistic," she said.
"It's heart breaking that this has happened to such a beautiful person who would have done anything to protect her family.
"I know if someone was trying to get in the house Stacey would have put herself in the way, it's the kind of person she was. Family was everything to her."
Neighbours reported hearing a loud noise around 8pm.
Several said they didn't realise it was a gunshot until the usually quiet cul-de-sac was flooded with police a short time later.
"It's not a through street that's the thing," a neighbour said. "It's usually pretty quiet, but this is just horrific."
Another friend of Ms Klimovitch's said she had "talked a lot" about threats made against the family and said the pensioner was scared.
She said when she heard sirens and realised emergency services were in the western end of Queen Street, she immediately thought something might have happened to Ms Klimovitch.
"My mind went straight to Stacey, because I know about the troubles she had been having," she said.
"I just can't believe this has happened, I don't understand why they weren't protected. Stacey would not have hurt anyone and now she is dead. I still can't believe it's happened. It should never have happened."
Ms Klimovitch has three daughters and a son. She was a Stockton local who friends described as "absolutely beautiful".
Friends said Ms Klimovitch was single, but still worked as a "family unit" with her former husband.
"She had the biggest smile, was such a warm and loving person," another long-time friend said.
"But she talked about being scared, there were some issues going on with threats made to the family and at times she was worried about going outside.
"She was scared and had been talking about the problems for some time."
She said the family was very sports orientated.
"Stacey had such a soft heart and she just cared about everyone," she said.
"She probably taught every second kid in Stockton to swim. She was really proud of that. It's an absolute tragedy, she would not have hurt a fly."
Ms Klimovitch moved into the flat in July last year and her daughter and granddaughter moved in several weeks ago.
It's understood her daughter and granddaughter had plans to move out in coming weeks.
According to a leading Australian organisation opposing violence against women, one in three Australian women has experienced physical violence since they were 15 years old.
Forensic investigators worked through the day at the crime scene and Queen Street remained closed on Thursday night..
Detective Superintendent Wayne Humphrey said police did not consider the shooting to be random.
"I am convinced it is a targeted attack. For what purpose, I do not know," he said.
"I want to assure the Stockton community though that the likelihood of a reoccurrence of this offence is very, very unlikely."
Investigators are appealing for anyone who saw suspicious activity in Queen Street or Little William Street area at the time - or who may have dashcam or CCTV footage - to contact police.
"We need to hear from you as soon as possible," Detective Inspector Humphrey said.
Information can be passed on to police through Crime Stoppers either via the online portal or by calling 1800 333 000.
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