A journey in grief: I'm aware of how surreal my life has now become since my daughter Mia was killed

Rosie Ayliffe
Tuesday 30 August 2016 22:52
Mia as a baby
Mia as a baby

Mia Ayliffe-Chung is the 21-year-old British backpacker who was stabbed to death in Australia last Tuesday at the hostel she was staying in.

Mia, from Wirksworth in Derbyshire, was working on a farm in Queensland in order to fulfil requirements for her Australian visa.

In the coming week, Mia’s mother, Rosie Ayliffe, will write a daily blog in The Independent as she prepares to travel to Australia and collect her daughter’s ashes.

Here, in her own words, she talks about the difficulties of processing her daughter's death.

Mia’s family are raising money to create a memorial fund in her memory. Click here to donate or find out more.


We're flying with Singapore Airlines in a few short hours. I'm looking forward to their legendary hospitality but wish we had more time in Singapore itself. I'd like to catch up with my cousin, currently working in banking in Singapore, and his wife and their beautiful children. I tried to persuade Mia to visit them but she was in a hurry to get to Australia, and what she omitted to tell me was that she'd actually lost her passport and was travelling on an emergency travel document from Thailand, so she wouldn't have had that option. My cousin, however is in a terrible state of, 'What if'.. and 'If only'.

I'm trying to move people away from that point as it's the most painful of all. It happened as it happened. Mia could have walked out of the front door and been hit by a car, and a few weeks before she travelled she narrowly missed exactly that. Just before she left the UK, she witnessed a bloody and near fatal crash in Cromford, the village where we live. I was so proud of Mia's reaction: she went to find out what she could do, and stayed to offer support and care for the injured parties. She came home quite surprised with herself at what she'd managed to achieve in terms of comforting the victims, and said she felt she could possibly work as a paramedic, she'd felt so useful, having held herself together.

The point is that she could have been injured or killed in that crash, but she wasn't. She lived to make her journey and fulfill 'a small part of her dreams' as a Brisbane friend has said.

Looking back over the last few days I'm aware of how surreal my life has now become. I learnt of Mia's death a lifetime ago, on Tuesday, in the middle of the night. Two policemen arrived at our doorstep and broke the news as best they could. They were devastated, one of them had a daughter the same age, and I knew this would be the worst job they would have to perform for many a long day. They knew very little apart from the fact that Mia was dead, and it was only when I phoned the consulate that I found out she had been attacked and killed. I was in shock for a long time.

I was aware that the story would hit local news at least, because stories about UK nationals dying abroad were always newsworthy, and the Australian press were already reporting it during the night, but with no names or details. I drank tea and ground my teeth a lot. Then I decided to start messaging people, so that they wouldn't learn of her death in the news. The motive was good but the method could have used some refinement. I'm still ashamed when I read the first message I sent to someone who loved Mia dearly. 'Mia's been stabbed. She's dead'.

Mia thought she'd been approached by a modelling agency which she herself had contacted weeks previously

I started - to absolutely no avail - trying to get her Facebook profile closed down, because I suspected it could be pillaged for photos. Before she left the UK this wouldn't have been a problem as she was careful about what she put on Facebook, but the youth culture in a city is different to that in a small-town environment like ours, and Mia's Facebook was getting a lot racier than I'd have liked. I didn't try to control this as the last thing I wanted was for her to feel I was being judgmental or to 'unfriend' me so that we would lose contact. She's a beautiful girl, and how she chooses to dress is (was) her business. But I was afraid she could be exploited for her looks in a world where people can be commodified, and to some extent she could be naive and vulnerable, despite her adult appearance.

Case in point: just before Mia left Surfers' for Townsville, she thought she'd been approached by a modelling agency which she herself had contacted weeks previously. She'd been rejected as she didn't have the look they wanted, and she didn't give it another thought. However in the email, ostensibly from their Milanese director, she was offered a Skype interview.

I've never wanted Mia to work as a model, as I felt it was a cruel and superficial business, and really quite a boring job. However, this could be a way around her doing farm work, which I thought would be physically harsh and hard to find. It could also bring her closer to home. I admit, I was prepared to let her follow this career path for my own ends... evil mamma!

We checked the man's LinkedIn profile, and it all appeared to be genuine, and the email looked official. But our suspicions were aroused because on the modelling agency's website it says they never offer Skype interviews. If we hadn't checked quite thoroughly and if she hadn't been able to run the whole thing past a photographer friend of hers in Brisbane, she could have fallen into a trap which could easily lure a vulnerable traveller to take international flights into the hands of unscrupulous people. I contacted the agency, and sent them the email Mia had received. My hope is they are dealing with this issue as I feel they may have an internal problem, since Mia was the one who contacted them initially.

Anyway, the Wednesday following her death was the most surreal of my life to date. The police liaison officers arrived first and were very sensitive, but it started to unfold that Mia had died in a horrific manner. This was tough to hear. After the police left, the street started to fill up with vehicles, and I realised I was going through one of those nightmare scenarios you think are the preserve of others, never you. The phone rang, and journalist after journalist found ways throughout the day to ask for interviews. The worst were the implied threats. 'If you talk to us, you get to choose what we say, and which pictures we use'. I remained resolute, I certainly wasn't talking to papers I knew would have no compunction about lying and distorting what I said. As it transpired, it didn't matter anyway, they absolutely just make stuff up. Direct quotes, the lot. Yes, I should go to the Press Complaints Commission, because I have so many free hours at my disposal. Maybe I will in a few weeks time, or maybe I don't have to now I've been given this opportunity.

Mia (right) before her death, with work colleague Amy Browne

I told everyone the only paper I would speak to was The Independent. (Ironically, being decent and sensitive professionals, they were one of the few who didn't approach me, so eventually I approached them). Then my family and friends started to phone to ask what they should do as journalists were hounding them and their children. A family member started to pressurise me into giving a statement. The result was a botch job really. It didn't even make sense, and I pride myself on my good English. Devastated! My advice would be, if you're ever unlucky enough to be doorstepped, wait until you're compos mentis enough to make coherent sense, and say what you want to say. Then take control to the extent you're able to.

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