I will never be able to truly describe what my mum meant to me. She was a beautiful, bubbly, vibrant mum, who would do anything, and everything for me.
She was my world, and I hers. We would move mountains for one another. When mum and I were separated, when we weren’t meeting up in secret mum would post me stamps and we would constantly write letters to one another.
I am lucky to have over eighty handwritten letters that mum wrote to me. They all start something like. Dearest Lili, Hi babe, how are you? I loved our time together; I wish we had longer”.
And end in “you are my reason for living, I love you. You are my favourite person in the world” p.s. you are my rock. Not to mention the pages where always filled with drawings and her trademark roses.
Among the many memories I have with mum some consist of us collecting shells at the beach, ice skating, our long car drives where we would talk endlessly, the nights we got to have sleep overs and simply be in each other’s company. For me there is no one memory that is my favourite because in reality they are all my favourite because she was there.
I have always been my mum’s protector; and I don’t think this is an uncommon feeling for kids whose parent are victims of domestic and family violence. Like most abusive relationships, victims are often left with no one to turn to. Mum was always up front with me. She didn’t hide the reality of what she was facing.
Before we lived together, my mum started disclosed to me the violence and abuse she was experiencing. At the time I was a kid, and I was paralysed by fear and unable to tell anyone about it.
Mum needed someone who would believe her, listen to her, and most of all, to love her. Mum didn’t have many people she could rely on, but I was that person.
Despite mum’s struggles, she worked incredibly hard on herself, for us and our dream of living together again.
In September 2011 our dream became a reality, and by that December we were living together decorating our flat.
At this time, mum had escaped her abuser. My mum did everything she could so that we could start our new lives together, but like in a lot of domestic violence relationships, she was trapped in the cycle of abuse. When we finally got our place together, we had nothing, but mum made it work because having each other was all that we needed.
Despite trying to move on with our lives, we were constantly harassed and stalked. We were living in fear, and I felt like that no one believed us or could protect us. We only had each other.
Looking back on this time, it is really complicated. On the one hand, I remember being absolutely terrified of the stalking and abuse and sleeping on the lounge room floor with knives hidden. But it was also one of the happiest times of my life, having girls nights with mum. It was surreal – we could finally do what all the other mums and daughters do.
I’ll never forget eating mum’s famous chicken and pasta salad sandwiches and re-watching and re-watching and re-watching the Twilight movies with her.
No matter how tight things were, or what was going on in our lives, mum always made me feel like we were the luckiest people on earth.
The last letter my mum ever wrote to me, was at the end of 2011 just after we had moved in together. Mum wrote, “I can’t wait for our next journey together”.
Our journey had just started when my mum went missing on January the 18th 2012. The week she went missing it rained a lot and my child brain thought my mum may be in the bushland of Aratula. I remember thinking I hope mum isn’t cold and wet.
At first, I kept all of her clothing as she would need it if she ever came back, deep down I knew this was never going to happen.
Mum missed dropping me off at my first day of high school. We didn’t get to joke around about how ugly my school shoes were or debrief on the school goss.
We missed celebrating her 33rd birthday, and we have missed all of the other milestones and celebrations since.
I turned to self-harm, I wanted to take my own life, but I thought maybe, just maybe, mum is alive.
Life’s big occasions and celebrations are no longer so great when you don’t get to share them with your mum. Instead, it is overwhelming lonely.
I will never get a hug from my mum again, or to exchange a simple “I love you”. I mourn the life that we were about to share together.
In the initial weeks and years, I was updated on my mum’s investigations by the news and radio. I remember I was using the school computers to look up articles to find out what had happened to my mum. I wasn’t told anything. I wasn’t updated by anyone. And I wasn’t allowed to ask any questions.
I have dreamt of all the ways my mum may have been murdered and all the places her body may be. I now understand that what I was and continue to deal with is known as complex PTSD. Not knowing where she is or what happened to her is a never-ending hell that I can’t escape, even when I am asleep.
It wasn’t until seven years after mum went missing when I was contacted by homicide and asked to provide a second statement, that I connected the dots and realised that police thought that he murdered my mum.
When mum went missing, I was expected to go on with my life. I didn’t get a chance to mourn her. After she went missing, I continued to write letters to my mum, and I addressed them to his house. In 2021, nine years after her disappearance, I was finally able to hold a memorial. I can’t describe what it was like hearing, at this Inquest, that mum’s case had been treated as a homicide investigation from the very beginning.
Throughout my teenage and early adult years, I have had to advocate for my mum. More often than not I am met with “she should have JUST left” as if DFV is just that simple. The responsibility is with the perpetrator of violence, not the victim. It is time that we stop blaming victims for the actions of perpetrators.
There is no denying that my mum was the victim of domestic violence. I am deeply disturbed by the evidence that we have heard during this inquest. No passage of time will ever justify these failings.
Now that I am an adult, I refuse to be silenced. I will never stop advocating for my mum and other victims of domestic and family violence.
In closing, I’d like to write a letter to you, mum:
To my dearest mum,
I loved our time together, I wish we had longer together.
And I am so sorry that I couldn’t help you earlier.
But this is not the end of our journey. I will not stop until you are found.
I will keep fighting to address the systematic failings you experienced.
“you are my reason for living, I love you. You are my favourite person in the world.”
p.s. you are my rock.