Russell Blackstock

Russell Blackstock is a senior reporter at the Herald on Sunday.

Smileys help lift family spirits

Laurie would have found the faces 'all hysterically funny' says grieving dad

Laurie Mullany-Mills, pictured with mum Asmina, dad Vaughan and sister Nancy, drowned in a duck pond with his grandmother. Photo / Supplied
Laurie Mullany-Mills, pictured with mum Asmina, dad Vaughan and sister Nancy, drowned in a duck pond with his grandmother. Photo / Supplied

Heartfelt messages from friends are reaching out to a grieving expatriate Kiwi man whose son fell into a freezing pond while feeding ducks with his gran.

Laurence Mullany-Mills, 6, and his grandmother Dawn Mullany, 71, were both pulled dead from a pond near Holywell village in Lincolnshire, England, after clothes and a bag of breadcrumbs were found by the water's edge on February 16 last year.

On the first anniversary of the accident this week, the little boy's father Vaughan and his wife Asmina Mullany-Mills, both 42, are taking comfort from a Facebook tribute launched by family and friends.

The "Smiles for Laurie" campaign features people from around the world posting smiley faces.

New York-based Kiwi TV presenter Jack Tame and Vaughan's nephew, TVNZ reporter Matty McLean, have already lent support.

"The Facebook tribute has brought a smile to our faces at an extremely difficult time," Vaughan told the Herald on Sunday yesterday from his home in Ketton, Rutland.

"Laurie really loved Mr Happy and a lot of Mr Happy toys were his favourites. He would have found it all hysterically funny because he had that kind of sense of humour."

Vaughan, who works in IT and moved to England from Auckland 20 years ago, said the campaign originated from Laurie's school.

"It started with Laurie's friends handing out stickers and the whole village got behind it."

Vaughan said their daughter Nancy, 2, had given the family strength.

"She is the main reason that has carried us through such an unimaginably hard time," he said. "We lost a son and a grandmother and it has been very challenging."

Vaughan said he is grateful for a family get-together in Queenstown at Christmas, 2011, just two months before the double tragedy.

"We were all there, including my mother-in-law Dawn and it was really magical . We felt we couldn't come back to New Zealand for the Christmas just gone because there was too many memories that are too fresh and painful."

TV reporter McLean, whose mother Tracey is Vaughan's sister, added: "Laurie was such a smart, precocious and kind little boy who is very much missed by us all."

- Herald on Sunday

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