"It was the stuff of nightmares."
That's how the grieving family of Cindy Waldron described her tragic death, after returning from an emotional visit to the site where she was taken by crocodile late last month. Ms Waldron was taken in waist deep water during a late-night beach adventure. She was dragged underneath the surface after she ventured into the water with her friend Leeann Mitchell, who tried to save her.
Speaking from her parents Tauranga home yesterday Cindy's younger sister Anna-Lee Annett said her sister's tragic death had traumatised the family.
"It's the stuff of nightmares, it's really difficult talking about what happened ... and picturing what happened to Cindy is like reliving a re-occurring nightmare."
However, the family was finding comfort in the knowledge Cindy's spirit was being cared for by a local Aboriginal tribe, Kuku Yalanji, who had adopted her and the Waldrons into their family.
Mrs Annett and her father Pat Waldron arrived back from Cairns on Monday night after visiting the beach spot where 46-year-old Ms Waldron was taken on May 29.
"As soon as we arrived in Australia everybody rallied around us, including the Environment and Heritage Protection officers, the State Emergency Services personnel, the local community, including the indigenous people, and the police, who were amazing.
"We had a little farewell service for Cindy on Thursday down on the beach organised by police, with a police chaplain, and the searchers and local Yalanji tribe members all there."
Mrs Annett said it was "lovely service" which had given her and her father a "bit of peace" and some closure.
"On Friday we were also taken up to the tribe's village about an hour's drive away. They told us they had adopted us into their family and reassured us they would take care of Cindy's spirit.
"They also told us they had given Cindy an Aboriginal name 'Yimara' which means flower, a beautiful red flower, which is really fitting. Aboriginal people are very spiritual, and it's really reassuring to know that Cindy's spirit is in really good hands."
The fatal attack has prompted the Australian state government to allocate an extra $5.8 million over three years for comprehensive crocodile population surveys and management.
Picturing what happened to Cindy is like reliving a re-occurring nightmare.
The attack also sparked calls from some quarters for croc-shooting safaris to cull numbers.
However, Cindy's parents Heather and Pat Waldron said they did they want to see any crocodiles harmed.
The 4.3m crocodile suspected of being responsible for the attack has since been caught and killed, and found to contain human remains, which police believed were that of a woman.
Tributes have poured in for the "free-spirited professional photographer who will be remembered as a caring, compassionate and generous person by her family and friends.
"People might say Cindy made a stupid mistake." said Mrs Annett. "But we were told that the beach area where she was wading was a popular swimming spot used by many locals including the indigenous community."
Mr and Mrs Waldron said the family was still coming to terms with what happened to their "darling daughter" who was "loved by everyone".
Mrs Annett said her sister never had a bad word to say about anyone.
"She only ever saw the good in everybody.
"People tend to say nice things when someone has passed away, but Cindy was truly one of life's wonderful people. I was really close to my little, big sister. We will miss her deeply."
Kiwi-born Ms Waldron, who was a long-term resident of New South Wales, had lived in Australia for 26 years but phoned her parents and sister every week without fail, her father said.
The family last heard from her a week before she was taken from them.
"Cindy was the happiest she had every been," her sister said.
Mrs Waldron said the family were still discussing arrangements and a funeral would be held "very soon".
Cindy's Australian friends also planned to hold a farewell for her on June 19 - it would have been her daughter's 47th birthday, her mother said
Mrs Waldron said: "We want to say a big thank you to all the people who have supported us here at home and in Australia and our family now asks to be left alone to grieve in private."
In a year's time the family planned to go back to Thornton Beach to erect a seat at the spot where Cindy was taken and hold a service to celebrate her life.
* May 29: Cindy Waldron is attacked by a crocodile in Thornton Beach in the Daintree National Park, Queensland while holiday with her Kiwi friend Leeann Mitchell. Hours before her disappearance, Ms Waldron posted on Facebook: "I'm on the beach, it's a lovely place, I'm having a ball."
* June 1: Search crews continued to scour the shoreline of Thornton Beach. Mr Waldron and Mrs Annett make an emotional visit to the attack site.
* June 2: The pair attended a special service at the spot where Cindy was taken to say goodbye
* June 3: A 4.3m crocodile suspected of the attack was trapped near Thornton Beach and killed. Human remains found inside the crocodile were believed to be that of a woman.
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