It was 10pm when the phone rang.
Maddie Kelly was at home with her brother, Stuart, and parents, Ralph and Kathy.
Meanwhile, Maddie and Stuart’s brother, Thomas – a university student in Sydney – had headed to the city’s infamous Kings Cross neighbourhood for a night out.
‘Thomas was shy and didn’t go out much so that night was his first time in Kings Cross,’ Maddie recalls. ‘The rest of us were at home when the phone rang, and I heard Mum rushing to tell Dad... Thomas had been assaulted.’
It was July 7, 2012, and the Kelly family was about to endure the start of an almost unimaginable ordeal.
Not only would Thomas lose his life after the horrific one-punch assault he suffered that night, but four years later his tormented brother Stuart would commit suicide – leaving Maddie as her parents’ only surviving child.
‘It’s difficult for me to talk about it. I just keep it inside,’ 22-year-old Maddie tells New Idea, exclusively. ‘I miss my brothers a lot.’
As the trio grew up, 18-year- old Thomas went off to uni.
But that fateful phone call the Kelly family received on July 7 would alter the family’s future irrevocably.
The news was devastating. Thomas wasn’t going to make it.
The family then had to make the crushing decision to turn off Thomas’ life support.
‘It didn’t register at first,’ Maddie says. ‘We were just some quiet family from Bowral. This stuff doesn’t happen. And then I was just desperate to see him.’
A 19-year-old stranger, Kieran Loveridge, was charged with the attack on Thomas.
As a result, Ralph and Kathy were in constant police interviews while the family home was flooded with bouquets of flowers.
But horrifically, that’s not where Maddie’s story ends...
Tragedy struck again four years later, after an event the family still cannot explain.
‘Stuart was due to start at St Paul’s College in Sydney,’ Maddie remembers.
But after a single night at the college, he called his parents, desperate for them to come and get him. ‘He was bawling his eyes out,’ Maddie says.
‘We’d not seen him cry in the three years since Thomas’ death, so something was very wrong. When he got home, he locked himself in his bedroom.
‘I tried again and again, but he didn’t want to talk,’ Maddie says. ‘We thought someone had bullied him about Thomas, but we never got any answers.’
Five months later, on July 25, 2016, history tragically began to repeat itself.
Stuart, who was 18 just like Thomas had been, had taken his own life. ‘I locked myself in my room for weeks,’ Maddie says. ‘I felt like the worst big sister. I completely blamed myself. Why didn’t I make him talk to me? We were all so angry with ourselves.’
Close friends propped Maddie up, but she says many had no idea what to say. ‘People would cross the street when they saw me coming. They thought I didn’t want to talk, but it was then I needed people the most.’ The family are now pushing for a coronial inquest. They believe something terrible happened to Stuart at university, which ultimately led to his death.
Two years on, Ralph and Kathy have set up The Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation and staykind.org.au to raise awareness of suicide and to drive change in Australia’s violent drinking culture.
As for Maddie, she recently graduated with a law degree. ‘I live with my parents. It’s the three of us now,’ she smiles sadly. ‘If I get upset for a second it’s a big deal. I don’t want them to see me break. They’ve been through enough.