A journey in grief: At last I felt Mia’s presence there on the white sand, and in the crashing waves. She was everywhere

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Mia Ayliffe-Chung is the 21-year-old British backpacker who was stabbed to death in Australia at the hostel she was staying in. 

Mia, from Wirksworth in Derbyshire, was working on a farm in Queensland in order to fulfil requirements for her Australian visa. 

In the coming week, Mia’s mother, Rosie Ayliffe, will write a daily blog in The Independent as she travels to Australia to collect her daughter’s ashes.

Here, in her own words, she talks about feeling her daughter’s presence in the places she loved. 

Mia’s family is raising money to create a fund for charity in her memory. Click here to donate or find out more.


Mia looked like she was asleep. I stared and stared because I was sure every time I looked away she moved. It reminded me of a visit to a waxworks museum, where you send a child to ask directions of a fake policeman. But the pretty creature lying there in Mia’s best dress was a perfect replica. Mia wasn’t there.

We left quickly and walked to the beach with coffees. Luckily I was with the New Zealand branch of the family, my lovely, sensible and highly supportive cousins, so couldn’t head to a bar to order gins (a double would probably have sufficed: I’m a lightweight and have had very little food or sleep for two weeks). The temptation to greet oblivion for a few hours was strong.

Before us lay the longest beach I’ve ever seen. Endless miles of white sand lapped by a feisty, furious ocean which crashed in my ears and prevented me articulating my thoughts. I left the others sitting in the dunes and headed down to the surf.

And there she was!

At last I felt Mia’s presence there on the white sand, and in the wild crashing waves. I waded into the water and she was there trying to surf with her friend Jameson. I turned around and she was lying in a bikini being photographed by a friend. From afar she was running and laughing with the girls from the bar, then collapsing into heaps of giggles. She was everywhere! The crashing of the waves chimed with my grief and I started to cry and just couldn’t stop. I ran and ran along the empty beach, sobbing and laughing like some crazy thing because she was there, and she always will be there. I knew then I’d be back and Mia would still be there.

After that I felt so strong, and I could do all the things I’d resolved to do for the ceremony tomorrow. I shopped until I found the perfect outfit, blowing a month’s food budget on a Ted Baker black and floral dress. We found some jewellery Mia would approve of and then a new experience for me, I headed to a nail bar! My nails now look so chic, Mia would be so proud (‘ooh… get you momma!’) but I haven’t been able to use the touch screen on my phone since, so sorry if you’re waiting for a reply to a message. The only thing I can think they may be useful for is to scratch paint off the windows at home; but I’m really struggling to type here!

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Mia’s friends Jesse Tahwi and Jordyn Barakin have amazed me with the strength of their love for Mia and their capable attitude to this situation.

When I first met them on Tuesday they looked absolutely terrified. I’d had some contact with them, but part of it had been to beg them to take pictures of Mia and themselves in their work outfits (basque and suspenders) off their profiles, or at least to check their privacies. They were expecting me to be very hard work, there was no doubt about it. Gradually we’ve overcome our prejudices about each other.

Now I can see why Mia loved these girls and her other workmates so much. While grieving, and they’re grieving deeply, make no mistake, they’ve organised a chapel service and a get-together, and they’re currently putting the finishing touches to their speeches for tomorrow.

A minor aspect of the press coverage in some of the less salubrious papers has been the portrayal of the nightclub in which the girls work, unfortunately named ‘Bedroom’, as a strip joint. I determined to visit and find out for myself.

I was quite shocked actually: the place looks like a secondary school end-of-year disco without the glamour. No offence, but the youngsters who frequent the bar are dressed for comfort rather than style and favour retro dance moves usually the preserve of dads at weddings. The décor is reminiscent of a bedroom, complete with beds around the raised dais, but that’s where the promise of sex ends. It’s certainly less raunchy than a Friday night in the high street of any major British city. Mia was a table waitress, which could involve substantial tips apparently, before the recent tightening of laws governing the entertainments industry in Australia, which controls opening hours (3am is now the limit) and excessive drunkenness. There were two cops in the bar, in uniform, perusing the dancefloor. I have no idea why, possibly a consequence of Mia’s death, but manager Brad had told me they were subjected to routine checks on many aspects of their business practices.

Jesse and Jordyn told me their parents don’t like the outfits they work in and have similar concerns to mine about the staff uniform. It seems to me to be unnecessary to attract the clientele the outfit is serving, which is essentially high school kids at the end of Year 12, out to party. But what do I know? They’re running a successful business, and Mia loved their management style. She was hoping to return to Bedroom for management training at some point, and she was highly rated for her professional attitude to her work.

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Rosie Ayliffe (L) and her daughter Mia (Rosie Ayliffe)

The girls came back to our flat and we talked candidly about their love for Mia. Jordyn is of Maori and New Zealand descent and she and Mia had share experiences of belonging to a minority cultural group in an essentially white society. Jordyn explained that in her culture the dead are kept among the living for days, and they are touched, kissed and embraced as if they are alive. Jordyn led the way in holding Mia’s hand and kissing her today, and Jesse and Jameson followed suit. I found this so touching. They kept marvelling at how alike Mia and I are, not just in looks and gestures but also in our attitudes and our humour. They described Mia delivering a killer punchline with perfect timing. I’m so proud to be compared to my girl.

I love these beautiful, strong, capable girls and look forward to welcoming them to Britain. I know Mia’s friends there will give these girls a true Derbyshire welcome, although I think they will need to cover up a little even in summer. Nobbut yer vest and kegs in that climate? You’d catch your death!

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