A smile spread across my wife’s face as our son walked into the lounge.
Eden, 17, looked so smart in his jeans, T-shirt, leather jacket and white cap.
‘You look like your father, handsome!’ I joked. He smiled warmly and laughed.
It was Halloween and he was going to a party at a friend’s house nearby.
Earlier in the week he’d asked his mum, Dorothy, 48, and me if he could go.
As it was nearby we’d said yes, as long as he had finished his homework.
Now in year 11, Eden was preparing for his end of year exams. He wanted to study engineering at uni and had always been focused.
We felt so proud of his achievements.
In year eight he taught himself to play guitar, now he was writing his own songs and had formed a band too.
Always kind and cheerful, Eden laughed a lot and was a thoughtful boy. He’d never go out before saying goodbye.
That night, in October 2010, after giving me a hug and calling goodbye to his 15-year-old sister, Dorothy drove Eden to meet his friends at the shopping centre before they went to the party together.
But later in the evening, we got a phone call from my goddaughter.
She had heard from a friend of Eden’s.
‘There was a fight and Eden got bashed,’ she told us in a panic. What?
‘Some guys gatecrashed the party and Eden got bashed...’
Dorothy and I raced to the car and minutes later we were at the address where the party was being held. Some kids were standing outside.
‘What happened? Where’s Eden?’ I asked in a rush.
‘Some guys gatecrashed the party and Eden got bashed,’ one told us. ‘He left but we don’t know where he’s gone.’
Dorothy and I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to hurt our son.
‘We’ve got to find him,’ I said, turning back to the car.
Eden wasn’t answering his phone so I called police.
After they arrived, a call came through on their radio.
A boy had been found nearby. Could it be Eden?
I followed the officers down the street and called Dorothy, who had been continuing the search herself.
Four houses along we found him. Our boy was curled up. He was breathing heavily and was drenched in blood.
‘Eden!’ I ran towards him, but officers held me back.
Minutes later, Dorothy arrived. She screamed and I held her in my arms as she shook with horror.
Then ambulances arrived and Eden was whisked to hospital. There, doctors said he had a serious head injury.
They needed to operate to remove part of our boy’s skull. ‘There’s only a 50/50 chance he’ll make it,’ we were told.
The next four hours were agonising and when the doctor emerged at 4am, the news wasn’t good. ‘Eden’s not responsive,’ he said. All we could do was hope.
After taking our daughter home, Dorothy and I returned to the hospital.
It was hard to believe that just hours earlier we were a happy family.
Now our boy was fighting for life.
He was breathing heavily and was drenched in blood.
‘Come on Eden, come back to us,’ I said to him softly.
But five days passed with no change and we were told to say goodbye.
Friends and family flooded in to farewell him.
And finally, Dorothy and I each held one of Eden’s hands as he slipped away. Our only son was gone forever. He was just 17.
At his funeral we saw what a popular young man Eden had been.
Over a thousand people came to pay their respects and on his gravestone we engraved a picture of his beloved guitar.
Yet all this time, those responsible for Eden’s death remained free.
It wasn’t until almost a year later that police made a breakthrough.
Six boys – aged 15 and 16 at the time of the attack – were charged in connection with Eden’s death.
Because of their age, they can’t be identified.
But as separate trials commenced, I was determined to be there. In court we heard the gruesome details of how our gentle son was killed.
On the night of the party, a group calling themselves the Wakeley Boys had turned up uninvited.
They’d seen the party on Facebook and went looking for another gang called the Campbelltown Boys.
When they didn’t find them they turned to our innocent Eden.
Months earlier, Eden had been violently robbed of his mobile phone by one of the Wakeley Boys, something we’d reported to the police.
When they spotted him at the party one boy had said, ‘that’s the boy who snitched.’
Minutes later, Eden was felled by a single punch. As he dropped to the ground the boys circled, kicking, punching and stomping on him.
Eden was seen curling up in the foetal position during the ambush, crying out, ‘stop, stop, leave me alone.’
One teen smashed a champagne bottle over him, but somehow Eden managed to escape and run for his life.
Eden was felled by a single punch
That’s when they chased him and one of the boys hit him with a metal pole. Eden fled again but then collapsed.
Knowing the agony he went through was torture and it was nearly five years before the last of the trials concluded.
By then, three of the group had been convicted of murder and sentenced to a maximum of 12 years in prison.
Another two, including the one who glassed Eden and another accused of previously setting him up to be robbed, were convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to a maximum of 10 years in jail.
A sixth boy pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to a maximum of five years and 11 months in jail.
Eden’s killers are now in their 20s and could be free before their 30th birthdays. I’m angry they didn’t face a harsher sentence.
Since losing Eden, our family will never be the same.
We’ll always be crippled by our loss but we cling to our happy memories of him. It’s those memories that help us carry on.