Ever since her two daughters were murdered, Christmas has been a dark time for Charlene Williams.

Sunday marks the 15th anniversary of the brutal deaths of the sisters, who died at the hands of stepfather Bruce Howse. The pair were stabbed to death in their beds, in the sleepout of their Masterton home on December 4, 2001. Last year Mrs Williams scattered the ashes of Saliel and Olympia, who were 12 and 11 respectively when they were killed, finally "laying them to rest".

After having felt "numb" at Christmas ever since the tragedy, she is determined to make this year different. She is now on a mission to brighten up Christmas for other families by encouraging people to donate gifts to children less fortunate.

"The goal is to make a child smile on Christmas day, because my girls won't."


Mrs Williams, formally Aplin, has been approaching local iwi, community trusts, health services, Wairarapa businesses, and even the police, asking them to donate gifts or vouchers to schools in the region.

She said spending just $5 was enough to brighten a child's day.

In December 2002 Howse, 40 at the time, was sentenced to life in prison for the murders of the girls, with a non-parole period of 28 years - the country's longest imposed sentence since the abolition of the death penalty. Mrs Williams said she received "amazing" support from the police and Victim Support.