A letter to Gerard Baden-Clay, written by a man who also lost his mother at the hands of his father.

Last week I wrote an article for bmag on how we can help the Baden-Clay girls.

It struck a chord with many, and I thank you for both your public and private messages. One letter, however, stood out more than others. I read it and it took my breath away.  I felt compelled to share it with you.

Like the three Baden-Clay daughters, reader John lost his mother at the hands of his father and in some way wants to reach out to them, to their father and to you to share his story. It is as follows.

To Mr Baden-Clay

At 15 years and 9 months of age, on Australia Day 1983, my own mother was shot and killed by my step father, after a violent argument. My step father was also jailed – a sentence much shorter than the one for those of us who loved her.  I would like to share some experiences and insights on the road that lies ahead for your three daughters. It isn’t always going to be a very easy or pleasant road. Some 31 years after losing my own mother I still struggle on a daily basis with the demons and issues that can be pinpointed back, directly to this event and the impact it has had on my life.

My 21st Birthday was celebrated with family and friends but the most important person in my life was not there. I thought about my mum that day – I thought about how proud she would be that I was becoming an adult. She never got to experience that with me. I never got to enter my adult life with her love, guidance and support.

When I suffered bad times in my life, it was then that I particularly grieved that she couldn’t be there with me, to share it with me, to show me the unconditional love and acceptance I needed to pick myself up and keep going. When I bought my first car… I would have driven it home in excitement. Her face would have lit up with an excitement that matched my own – I would have glowed inside at how proud she was for me to have achieved that milestone. But then, she missed out on being the one to help me save up and buy it in the first place.

While I completed my tertiary studies I felt that big hole inside me, the one that my mother would have filled with her unconditional love, her encouragement…even her stern, cross but firm tone when I was in trouble and needed straightening out!

She was never given the opportunity to be a mum and be there when her sons needed her. I can’t begin to describe what I would do or how much I would give just be able to talk to her, just for a few moments or wrap my arms around her and tell I loved her, just one more time. Suddenly she was gone and time can never be turned back.

Having believed that I had dealt with all of the issues of 31 years ago, in more recent times, I have seen hidden and suppressed issues re-appear and magnify. I don’t mind admitting  that I have struggled with issues of self-esteem, self-worth and confidence. I guess I have always struggled with these issues to a lesser degree but suddenly faced with the responsibilities of married and family life, these issues have not only come to the fore by have in fact magnified.

I can’t begin to tell you the sadness and pain that your girls will experience when they reach all of the firsts and milestones in their lives, and their mum isn’t there to share those things with them…. a right that every mother and every child is entitled to.  From special birthdays to graduations, weddings days and even having families of their own, they will never be able to share these precious moments with their mum. But they will remember how it felt to have her with them and desperately, desperately wish with all of their hearts that she would come back.

Some members of Allison’s family and friends have stated that they have been handed a life sentence. Whilst you may feel this is a little dramatic and somewhat fanciful, can I assure you that it isn’t. Sure, as time passes, healing does occur and your daughters will adjust and learn to cope in different ways, and yes, eventually the hurt, pain and sorrow does slowly subside somewhat, but it never fully goes away and never fully heals. Every day of their lives will have a small hole and sense of loss that can never be filled.

They will grow up into fine young women, thanks to the support, love and nurturing of their grandparents (who in my opinion, along with the girls, are the real heroes in this tragedy), but through no choice of their own, will miss out on so much that they not only deserve but were entitled to.

I’m the first to admit that I don’t believe that I’m necessarily a great person, but I hope I am man enough to admit that even now, so many years later, I still grieve and cry for the mum I lost so long ago. Even as recently as my wedding day, she should have been there but she wasn’t. She was never afforded the opportunity to meet and get to know her daughter in law or her granddaughter.

Throughout the last two years, whilst my thoughts have been with Allison, the bulk of my thoughts have been with your three daughters, and yes, there have been times where I have cried for them. I feel their pain and anguish, my heart aches because I know what they’re feeling, I’ve been there too, and will continue to be there for the rest of my life.

One day, when it’s my time, I will finally meet up again with my mum. The joy I will feel is so overwhelming that I am emotional thinking about it.  Won’t that be a wonderful day? I have so much to tell her and share with her, both good and bad. One day, your daughters too, will be with their mum again and I hope and pray that they will have much good news to share with her.

Mr. Baden-Clay, as you sit there in your cell, I hope you take some time out to reflect on what life is going to be like for those 3 beautiful girls. It isn’t going to be an easy road for them but let’s hope it will be character building and they will triumph and become 3 beautiful women, with their mum looking down upon them smiling and proud……. so very proud.

John Vogel