Mum tells Donald Trump: 'My daughter's death will not be used'

By Avi Selk

Mia Ayliffe-Chung, who was killed in a knife attack at a hostel in Queensland. Photo / Facebook
Mia Ayliffe-Chung, who was killed in a knife attack at a hostel in Queensland. Photo / Facebook

Her daughter had not yet been buried, nor had the newspapers finished turning up bloody details of her death, before Rosie Ayliffe began to write about her child's murderer.

"Grief is a funny thing," she wrote in the Independent last August - five days after a man chased her 21-year-old daughter through a hostel, stabbed her to death and killed another backpacker who tried to protect her.

"I haven't seen Mia for nearly a year, and so in my head she's still alive, well and living Australia."

She was careful, even then, to write accurately about the accused killer. Smail Ayad had yelled "Allahu akbar" during the attack, the Guardian reported, but he had also rambled incoherently, stabbed a dog and "was apparently infatuated with" her daughter.

"Much nonsense is being spoken in the press about her alleged killer," Ayliffe wrote. He "is not an Islamic fundamentalist, he has never set foot in a mosque."

Video

Likewise, police ruled out terrorism, and the Ayad murder case was transferred to a mental-health court.

The sensational stories eventually faded. The parents of Mia Ayliffe-Chung and Tom Jackson mourned and tried to move on.

Months went by.

Then, yesterday, both families saw their children's murders in a White House list of terrorist attacks that hadn't got enough attention, and Ayliffe said she felt she needed to set down words again.

"My daughter's death will not be used to further this insane persecution of innocent people," she wrote in an open letter to US President Donald Trump.

Her words were joined by the parents of the attack's second victim, Jackson, who expressed their disbelief in an email to the White House and elsewhere.

"I'm pretty sure he and his advisers know full well - or could very easily verify - that Tom and Mia died not as the result of an act of terror but rather through the actions of a disturbed individual," Les Jackson wrote on Facebook.

"Of course, that doesn't suit his agenda."

Sandra Jackson tweeted:

@realDonaldTrump wake up this morning to see you've used my Son murder to further your campaign of hate, how dare you. You are a disgrace.

"The fact anyone would want to make something political out of Tom dying is just beyond me," Jackson told the Washington Post. "We're still struggling to come to terms with it and probably never will. This has just brought the whole experience of last summer crashing about us."

The two travellers had barely known each other - or their accused killer - when they intersected last August in a remote Australian hostel where backpackers stopped to raise funds for their travels.

Mia had just started working on a farm - picking up loose rocks, calling her family in England often, "whether it was because she was bored or lonely," Ayliffe wrote in the Independent.

"Skills achieved; the ability to tell the difference between a rock and a clump of mud and throwing stones really far," her daughter wrote in one of her last Facebook posts, according to the Guardian.

She had only just met Jackson, another English traveller who had been in the hostel for a few months - determined to see Australia after visiting much of the rest of the world, his father said.

Smail Ayad. Photo / Facebook
Smail Ayad. Photo / Facebook

Ayad, who was staying in the same hostel and writing Facebook posts of a different sort:

"I am victim of an international economic conspiracy. I think that I am going to die," Ayad once wrote, according to Yahoo News. "Those who love me, follow me."

The 29-year-old French national was also telling people in the hostel that he planned to marry Mia, the Guardian reported.

Police said they had no romantic relationship before the night of August 23, when others in the hostel said Ayad got a kitchen knife.

"He roused Ayliffe-Chung from her bed and hauled her on to a balcony," the Guardian reported.

She broke away, wounded and scrambled through the building, according to the outlet. Witnesses heard Ayad yelling incoherently as he chased her - "Allahu akbar" among other exclamations - then saw him dive head first from a stairwell, killing a dog and finally cornering his victim in a bathroom.


Jackson tried to help her. They were both stabbed many times. She would die in the hostel, and he a few days later in a hospital.

Early news reports made much of two words spoken during that night's horror.

"He said 'Allahu akbar.' It's a bit like me saying I'm Jesus Christ," Les Jackson said. "It was initially reported it could be a terrorist attack, but we never took that seriously and it was quickly disproved."

Ayliffe said she felt the same. In her first days of grief, she wrote in the Independent about "the TV engineer who visited yesterday [and] said, 'Well we know what that was about, it was that Moslemic terrorism!' Thanks for clarifying."

Investigators ruled out the possibility.

"Queensland Police, the Australian Federal Police and the Joint Counter Terrorism Unit . . . investigated any links between Ayad and radical organisations, and they did not find any evidence of radicalisation," the Townsville Bulletin reported.

When she planned her daughter's funeral, Ayliffe included an Islamic prayer in the schedule - to oppose what she called "the misrepresentation of Mia's death in the media as an act of terrorism."


It seemed to work. British and Australian stories about the murders stopped focusing on "Allahu akbar," reporting instead on Ayad's preliminary diagnosis of schizophrenia after his arrest and his transfer to a mental-health court.

Ayliffe's writings moved to other topics - mainly her concerns that backpackers like her daughter were being exploited for labour.

"It was gone," Les Jackson said of old terrorism suspicions. "Anyone with a brain knew."

Until this week, when Alyiffe sent him a report from the United States - from the White House itself.

Yesterday, Trump accused "the very, very dishonest press" of covering up terrorist attacks around the world. His staff promised to release a list of them.

What the White House came up with was full of typos and questionable examples of "under reported" terrorism. It cited 78 cases, including "two killed and one wounded in a knife attack at a hostel frequented by Westerners" in Queensland, Australia.

And there was the accused killer's name - labelled a terrorist, once again.

"I just can't believe it," Les Jackson told the Post. "There's a lot of bile, there's a lot of hate - basically, there's a lot of bad stuff going on in the world at the moment."



"We can do without this type of nonsense," he said, then broke away from the interview until his wife could calm him down.

Sandra Jackson said she'd already consoled Tom's sister about the White House list - and emailed her displeasure to the president.

Ayliffe, as she'd done months earlier, shared her reaction with the world.

"The circumstances of Mia and Tom's deaths prove that those with the strength of character to travel the world and learn about other cultures should be cherished as brave, resilient characters," she wrote to Trump.

"Treating immigrants as disposable commodities and disregarding their safety causes deaths throughout our so-called civilised world," she said in the letter, "and my daughter was not just a victim of a lone wolf attacker with a possible predisposition for schizophrenia but also of this disregard."

- Washington Post

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf03 at 29 Apr 2017 00:10:24 Processing Time: 728ms