Angelhands-Ann O'Neill

Reporter: Andrea Burns

It was a diabolical crime ...impossibly cute littlies gunned down in their mother's bed while they slept. What do you miss most? "Everything" Mum Ann O'Neill shot in the leg, helplessly watching on as her children were massacred by their father - her estranged husband. " until death us do part" proved chillingly correct - the marriage ended with his suicide. Circumstance might have made Ann O'Neill the very public - if reluctant - face of domestic violence victims in WA - but it was her choice to turn her tragedy around - and give them a voice. "A lot of people say oh I know that person, but they really only know that one event that happened and that of course is the most horrible and vulnerable and most personal event in their lives, they really don't think there's anything else to those people beyond this one terrible event and of course we're all such complex beings and there's much more to all victims of crime than just one experience"

Fourteen years after her world was decimated, Ann O'Neill has taken herself back to school, gone to uni, is now completing a PH-D on the experience of friends and families of murder victims. Living a purposeful life is her tribute to Kyle and Letisha. Ann says "I find it ironic the thing we want most for those that we've lost is life and yet often we think we should waste our own in order to honor their memory, I think I'd spent so much time telling Kyle and Letisha they were good people and they deserved to live life for themselves that I couldn't be a hypocrite and not do that"

Karen Lang also knows the agony of losing a child to murder. 15 year old Jessica was fatally stabbed in the Bicton family home 10 years ago. "The incident is something that wasn't of our making yet it's something that changed our lives forever, so in that sense we have been victims of something horrific"

Ann's insight and friendship has helped Karen grieve for Jessica, "Jess was full of life and she was the sort of personality that lived life to the absolute max and she would be absolutely disgusted if I totally dropped my bundle"

Ann established Angel Hands, an award winning victim support service, eight years ago. The organisation is now running retreats for crime victims. "It's an opportunity to rest, reflect, regroup and reconnect, be that with yourself or other people" Karen went on the first one, "you loved it? oh, it was absolutely blissful" Ann says "we try and make it as much of a gentle and nurturing time for people - it can be whatever people want it to be - if they want to come and stay in bed for the weekend, so be it, you can do that"

Government funding will pay for 8 retreats, Ann's hoping to find corporate sponsors - and eventually would like to open retreats for offenders' families too. "They do nothing to deserve this, they lose the same loved ones particularly in domestic situations, it turns their world upside down, the community isn't always nice to them"

Letisha and Kyle O'Neill would now be eighteen and twenty. Ann O'Neill now works every day to make sense of circumstances in which it seems there is none. Ann says "there's a quote I love and it's " it matters not what happens to you in this world, but what you do with what happens to you"

Contact Details

Angelhands

www.angelhands.org.au

Phone: 0416 580 090