Here, Tracey Burgess, 55, tells the story in her own words.
M￼y son was 19 when he bounded through the door and broke the news.
‘I’ve decided what I’m going to do,’ he said, flashing his infectious smile. ‘I’m applying for my security licence.’
Kind and gentle, Kesley had always been protective of those around him. But I hated the idea of my boy in a job that exposed him to danger.
‘Oh Kes, can’t you choose something else?’ I begged.
‘I think I can make a real difference,’ he told me.
With my eldest son, Terence, 24, looking after my parents in Lismore, it was just me, Kesley, and my youngest son, Jacob, 14, at home in Lurnea. After he qualified, I made Kesley promise to let me know when he was back safe at the end of each shift.
‘No matter how late,’ I said to him. So at 4am, he’d make us both a cup of tea, plop down on my bed and tell me about the people he’d helped. Then he’d give me a kiss and say, ‘Love you Mother Dearest.’
It was what he called me – never Mum!
As the years passed, Kesley had big dreams to own a business and he was saving hard to build a house.
‘It’s going to have a granny flat for you,’ he’d say.
On July 1, 2010, he even surprised me with a car. It was Jacob’s 20th birthday, so that night we had a family meal. Kesley’s girlfriend Kristal and my friend Garry were there too. Afterwards, Jacob went out with mates and we all headed to bed.
A few minutes later, there was a huge bang in the living room, where Garry had been sleeping. Running into the hallway, I saw four men – three were wearing masks.
They’d broken down the door and were brandishing machetes, knives and an axe. Garry was knocked out and another grabbed me, ripping my nightie.
‘Where’s the money?’ they were screaming.
As a machete came down on me, I put my arms up and felt it slice my hand. Just then, Kesley jumped between us and pushed me into his bedroom with Kristal. He had a small sword he used to cut the bushes in the backyard and he struck my attacker on the shoulder.
‘Call Triple-0,’ I cried to Kristal.
Hearing the horror unfolding in the lounge room, I ran back out. Then I collapsed to my knees at the sight.
My beautiful boy was on the floor and three of them were hacking into him. His hand and foot was almost completely chopped off and blood was splattered on the ceiling and walls.
‘Please, I beg you, kill me, not him,’ I choked.
One laughed as they continued butchering my gentle Kes in front of my eyes. Eventually, they took two handbags and ran.
‘It’s going to be alright sweetheart,’ I soothed, as I desperately tried to stem the bleeding with towels. But it would never be alright again.
Kesley looked at me, then he whispered, ‘I’m going to pass out, I love you.’
By the time he got to the hospital, there wasn’t a drop of blood left in him.
‘We tried everything,’ his surgeon told me. ‘His injuries were just too severe.’
His brothers and I were by his side as he took his last breath. He was just 25. I couldn’t understand it. At 11pm I had a happy family, but by midnight it had been torn apart. We’d been in our own home.
‘I should’ve been there,’ Jacob wept.
‘If you were, I would’ve lost you both,’ I told him.
It was a relief when police told me they’d arrested one attacker leaving hospital with the shoulder injury Kes had inflicted.
After that, others were intercepted in phone calls planning a further killing spree. In total, nine were charged.
At the funeral home, I styled Kesley’s hair perfectly, just how he liked it. It was the last thing I would do for my boy.
‘I love you so much,’ I sobbed.
After we packed up the house, I went to live with my parents. Most days I couldn’t even get out of bed. Kesley had died a hero, protecting me, but for what?
I attended all the court cases to face those monsters. We heard they belonged to a gang called United Brotherhood, and had carried out four armed home invasions across Sydney in the space of four days. As initiation rituals for new members, they’d been targeting drug dealers, often getting the wrong houses like they did with ours.
They were given such lengthy jail sentences, I felt like justice had been served. But nothing would bring back Kes and I continued to re-live the attack every night.
Then eight years on, I received a letter from Government House. Someone had nominated Kes for an Australian Bravery Award. It’s an honour to accept it on my courageous boy’s behalf, but I so wish he was here.
I’m still having counselling and am so paralysed by grief the week of the anniversary, we decided to change Jacob’s birthday.
‘How can we celebrate when it’s the date Kes was ripped from us?’ he said.
We’ll never get over it. Kesley wasn’t just my son, he was my best friend. But as I tell people, not all heroes wear capes, some have wings.
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