The mum of a British backpacker killed in an Australian hostel has told of how she looked her daughter's killer in the eye for the first time - as he had all criminal charges against him dropped.
Rosie Ayliffe wept as she told Brisbane Mental Health Court about the loss of her only daughter Mia, 21, who died with fellow Brit Tom Jackson, 30, when Smail Ayad went on a stabbing frenzy in Townsville in August 2016.
A judge decided on 5 April that Ayad was of unsound mind when he killed the tourists and must be taken to a mental health facility – meaning he will never stand trial for murder.
Mia had been travelling the world since September 2015 but in Australia she attempted to extend her tourist visa by working the statutory 88 days manual farm labour.
But after a week at the hostel, Smail Ayad, who shared a four-birth mixed sex dorm with Mia, allegedly killed her in a stabbing frenzy after developing an obsessive crush.
But criminal proceedings against Ayad were discontinued after the court found he was suffering paranoid schizophrenia at the time of the attack.
Together with Tom's dad Les in court, Mia’s mother Rosie Ayliffe, 54, wept as the charges were dropped and Ayad was sent to a mental health facility.
Since 2016, Rosie has struggled to come to terms with Mia’s death and last year claimed that she still feels a connection with her daughter.
The mum-of-one and former teacher, from Derbyshire, UK, said: ‘There are no winners in all of this – everyone has lost.
‘Ayad came in shackled, with his ankles chained, and was led to a glass box in the courtroom. He was described by the prosecuting attorney as 'a broken man'.
‘The thing that I came over for was to achieve a connection. When I read out my witness statement there was one section, where I said, 'when he realises what he's done, his internal suffering will be far worse than anything that can be inflicted on him’.
‘For the first time in the entire day he looked up at the witness stand, and I caught and held his gaze for a count of three.
‘I felt as if I was looking into his soul.
'I cried three times during the hearing. I have barely slept since Sunday. I've had about 10 hours sleep since I got on the flight Sunday morning.
‘At certain points I felt angry, because it was difficult to believe there wasn't a degree of expediency in avoiding a full criminal trial.
‘But I think you have to put faith in the professionals who are making the diagnosis, and believe that no-one wants to make a mistake in this matter.
‘I don't see the point in fighting things you can't change. And you have to be confident in the court who are very keen that he is never released from the mental health unit.’
Rosie has campaigned for more safety for backpackers as many are forced into danger to complete the 88 days of farm work required to get a second year visa.
Rosie’s victim impact statement
‘Mia was full of light, laughter and fun. She was an absolute joy to be around, and she was loved by countless people both here in Derbyshire and around the world.
‘The tributes came from all over the world too, about how kind Mia was, how tolerant of others, how full of love for everyone she met, how she would stop and speak to mothers in the slums of Mumbai or Essaouira and play with their children, or dance with homeless people in the city streets in the UK.
‘No-one was too good for her, and no-one too poor. She was just my living laughing girl, always full of the joy of being alive.
‘The worst thing for me, apart from my own grief, was the anger and pain of the children she was closest to.
‘They are still full of anger and pain, and there’s nothing I can do personally to solve that. I hope it will ease with time, as they were too young to be faced with such brutality to their beloved Mia.
‘As for me, the loss has been a long ache, and many, many nights I lie awake, thinking about my daughter’s last moments, and how it must have felt for her to lie dying.
‘Did she feel pain? Did she know she was going? The images haunt me, waking and sleeping.
‘I found my grief had a physical impact on my body, and I have gone from being an active person who took care of my physical and mental states to being literally crippled by grief: the effects of PTSD are taking their toll and manifesting in joint pain, exhaustion and tension.
‘I no longer work as a teacher because I know I cannot face those rows of teenagers: constant reminders of my girl and her untimely death.
‘So how do I feel about the person who [killed her?]
‘Well I certainly do not wish that person pain, or horror, or anguish. I don’t want the person to rot in hell, and what happened has certainly not robbed me of my ability to appreciate the sanctity of life.
‘Nothing can undo what happened that night. However I only wish that person and his family peace as once this person comes to realise what they have done, their internal suffering will be worse than anything that is imposed upon them.
‘I want everyone to understand though, that this man’s act of violence has robbed my world of my beloved daughter, a young girl who had everything to live for, who was loved by very many people, who had so much love in her heart to give to others.
‘Mia was a sweet girl who would never hurt another intentionally, and would protect her friends from hurt if she could. She was feisty, and caring, and believed in karma and in loving kindness.
‘I am proud to have been her mother, and I will hold her in my heart until I die.’