Robyn Schafer, 47, Parafield Gardens, SA
Published in issue 48, 2014
It wasn't normal for Mum and me to go a day without speaking. So when she sent me a text message, I couldn't believe I'd forgotten to call her. Are you still alive? Beverley, then 64, joked. I had to laugh - it was just like Mum to make fun!
Everyone adored her bubbly, outgoing personality but she was mostly known for her caring nature. Not only was she a loving grandma to my children, Natasha, now 28, Josh, 25, Toby, 22, and Benjamin, 19, practically everyone in the neighbourhood called her 'Gran'. But to me, she was my mother and my best friend.
We were always together. She'd been by my side throughout all my children's births and always spoiled them each birthday and Christmas. They knew Gran could never limit their gifts to just one. Instead, she'd shower them with presents and get plenty of grateful kisses in return.
She was my mother and my best friend.
Although she was single, being alone never bothered Mum. She was happy at her house in Elizabeth North, SA, 20 minutes from where I lived. When Mum wasn't with me or the kids, she was off being a social butterfly, playing darts with the local team or chatting to her friends in the community.
We also had a special tradition. Every Wednesday, at 10am, I would take Mum to the shops to buy that's life!, her favourite magazine, and the next day we'd go grocery shopping. On Sundays I dropped around for a cuppa.
But on October 3, 2010, I returned from her place feeling under the weather. A terrible cold had me bedridden for the next two days. That's when I got Mum's text. I'd forgotten to call her. I'm alive! I replied. Just haven't been well.
The next morning, I was still crook, and although I wanted to take Mum to get her mag, I just couldn't muster the strength. I promise to take you shopping tomorrow, I texted her. When I didn't get a response, I felt guilty. It wasn't like Mum to give me the silent treatment.
I spent the rest of the day at home and at 3pm my phone rang. At first, I figured it was Mum but it was my Aunt Lyn instead. 'You need to get to your mum's house,' she urged. I was instantly gripped by panic. Was Mum hurt? She'd had surgery on her knees two weeks earlier so I was worried she'd had a fall.
Jumping in the car with Toby and Benjamin, we rushed to her house. Please be okay. I felt another pang of guilt. If I'd been there, could I have helped her? As we went to turn into her street my concern became sheer terror. It was blocked off with yellow tape, and police cars were everywhere.
My breath caught in my throat as I got out and bolted towards Mum's door. But a detective stopped me in my tracks. 'I'm sorry, you can't go in,' he said. 'Your mum has passed away.'
Who would do something so horrible to my beautiful mother?
My stomach churned and an anguished scream escaped my mouth. As my legs buckled beneath me, the boys held up my broken body. 'How? Why?' I yelled. When the policeman gently explained Mum had been beaten to death with her own cricket bat, I was violently sick.
Poor Auntie Lyn, Mum's sister, had found her and immediately called Triple-0. My mind swirled. Who would do something so horrible to my beautiful mother? Shocked, I was desperate to see her and hear her voice. But the house where we'd spent so many afternoons together was now a crime scene.
Desperate to be with her, I refused to leave until her body was brought out. The police told me it would take a long time and after six hours, I finally gave in. The boys took me to a friend's house, where we sat in silence, too stunned to utter a single word. It was midnight when I went home.
I don't know whether I slept that night but when daylight finally crept into my room, I was still drowning in sorrow. One question replayed in my head - who would hurt my precious mum? As the tragic news spread through the community, Mum's popularity became more obvious than ever.
People showered us with condolences. Even strangers dropped off cards and flowers. Mum had touched so many lives. I'd never understand how someone could take her from us, but I was desperate for answers.
Sadly, detectives didn't have many solid leads. But they did say there had been no sign of forced entry into Mum's house. Had she known her killer? My heart shattered, imagining her terror as the person turned on her, attacking her with her own cricket bat. She would have been so defenceless.
I was desperate for answers.
Seven weeks passed in a blur of grief then police asked me to do something that would take all my strength. I'd have to walk through Mum's house to see if anything was missing. Police had already discovered that Mum's black handbag had been taken. Is that all she was worth? Determined to help get justice, I agreed.
My stomach was in knots as I wandered through each room. Blood still stained the floor but I stayed strong, trying to find anything that might help police. But nothing seemed out of place. Except that Mum wasn't there, greeting me with a hug.
Afterwards, the investigation had progressed enough that we were finally able to hold a funeral, so everyone could say farewell to their 'Gran'. We continued to work with detectives but as weeks turned into months and then years since that tragic day, we still don't have any definite answers.
The person who killed Mum still roams free, unpunished for their senseless crime. That's why we need your help. If you know anything that might help with Mum's case, please come forward.
I'll never give up on my beautiful best friend.