Real Life

Mum of slain backpacker pens heartbreaking essay on loss

Mia Ayliffe-Chung’s courageous mother says she wants to forgive her daughter’s killer and calls any notion to link the death to Islam "nonsense".

Mia Ayliffe-Chung, 21, was stabbed to death in her hostel in Townsville, Australia, last Tuesday.
The British backpacker, who was working on a farm nearby to fulfill visa requirements, lost her life in a frenzied attack brought on by a French guest at the hostel - who allegedly had developed a romantic infatuation with the youngster.
Now in a heart-wrenching essay written for The Independent, Mia’s mother, Rosie Ayliffe, has tried to process some of her feelings very publically in a bid to clarify some of the "nonsense" that has been written about Mia’s death, and the attempts to link it to Islam.
“Grief is a funny thing,” writes Ms Ayliffe. “I’ve been told by the family liaison police that I’m at the beginning of a journey and that I’ll experience many emotions. For the past few days the emotions have been at bay, to the extent that I was starting to question yesterday whether I was grieving at all.”
“Now I don’t think that’s the problem. The problem is that I haven’t seen Mia for nearly a year, and so in my head she’s still alive, well and living in Australia, cracking jokes about throwing stones and setting up a stall to sell the rocks she’d picked up as part of her farm work.”
Ms Ayliffe, from Wirksworth in Derbyshire, is clearly still coming to terms with her painful loss, and detailed how life was going for Mia “in her beloved Australia” before she died.
“You’ve seen pictures of Mia, 5'5”, skinny as a bird, and meticulous about her appearance. And here she was on a chain gang... she kept referring to the experience as similar to the book Holes. ‘There's even a warden Mum, and snakes!’”
But Mia’s mother clarified that her daughter “was actually relishing the experience.”
Like many foreigners, the English mum feared her daughter was in danger while Down Under – but the assumed threat was not posed by people, instead local fauna frightened her.
“A little English girl in a cane field full of critters and no induction? I was concerned,” wrote the mum.
“I was expecting to be called out, I genuinely believed she was going to be bitten by a snake.”
But when the news of her daughter’s terrible death did come one worry that Mia’s mum had was about her body being held somewhere cold and dark.
“She wouldn’t mind the dark, but she’s not good with the cold,” she wrote. “I couldn’t bear for her to be kept like that for weeks and decided she needed to be cremated sooner rather than later.”
Ms Ayliffe said the plan is she would like to scatter her slain daughter’s ashes across the globe so she can “visit places she hasn’t visited yet. Canada, New Zealand, Singapore.”
Now Ms Ayliffe is trying make sense of the tragedy that has befallen her family, and less than a week on she’s already talking of forgiving the man accused of killing her daughter – and also renouncing any connections he has with Islam.
“Smail Ayad – the French man being held on suspicion of my daughter’s murder – is not an Islamic fundamentalist, he has never set foot in a mosque,” wrote Ms Ayliffe.
The 29-year-old has been charged with her murder, along with the attempted murder of two men who came to her aid, and the assault of 12 police officers since he has been in custody.
And what fate does Ms Ayliffe wish for the person responsible?
“I know my brother’s message to Mia’s killer would be about hell, eternal damnation, and the salvation of Christ,” she wrote. “Life’s easier in some ways if you live by the book.”
“But having been raised as a socialist and within the Church, what I choose to take from the scriptures and from socialist texts is that forgiveness and reparation are absolutely key, or violence escalates into something uncontrollable.
“And the person who killed Mia now has to live with the fact that they destroyed my daughter. If they feel no remorse, then surely they’re a monster in human form, and what kind of life is that?”
So far in her grief journey Ms Ayliffe can only seemingly try and accept what has happened as if it was never going to happen any other way.
“At the moment, the only way I can really cope with our loss is to think, Mia’s time had come, and what happened in that hostel on Tuesday was her fate,” she wrote.
“It was always going to happen like that.
“She was lent to us for a period of time and now, in Ben Johnson’s words, she’s been “exacted by the Lord on the just day”. (I always struggled to teach that poem without welling up!)
“But I also think that wise little girl was here for a reason, and part of my journey will be to find out what that reason was.”
According to The Independent, Rosie Ayliffe will write a daily blog for the publication as she prepares to come to Australia and collect her daughter’s ashes.