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Thursday, 13 June, 2002, 09:05 GMT 10:05 UK
'My daughter died on her gap year trip. Now my son's going.'
Alan Stuttle, photo by The Evening Press, York
Alan Stuttle: "I never thought she'd die before me"
Two months ago Alan Stuttle's daughter Caroline was killed while backpacking in Australia, but the York-based artist has still given his son his blessing to go to New Zealand. Mr Stuttle is also planning a trip, to retrace Caroline's last steps.

I'm a father who has a daughter who's been murdered but I don't want that to cloud anybody's judgement about letting their children go abroad.

Caroline in Sydney
Caroline died two months into her gap year trip
If you love your children, you have to let them go at some point. And before they go out the door, don't forget to say 'I love you' and give them a hug and a kiss.

I'm very pleased that I did that for Caroline before she went away. I gave her a bon voyage card that said that one of my dreams had always been to have a wonderful daughter.

As she left, she beamed across the road at me and I remember feeling so happy that she was having a go.

Farewell down under

I hope to go to Australia myself in the next couple of weeks, to draw a line under the last chapter and to say goodbye to my daughter.

Portrait, photo by The Evening Press, York
Alan's portrait of Richard and Caroline as children
She loved Australia. In her e-mails and text messages and postcards she was so full of the places she'd been, the beautiful things she'd seen.

So I'd like to see it through her eyes. I want to paint the things she saw, to visually express the love she felt for that country. I want to see what her last views of this earth were like.

I'll also work on a book about her life and what it's like to grieve for a child. If I can commit this to paper, perhaps it'll help another bereaved parent.

Death down under
Caroline fell or was pushed off a bridge during a robbery in Bundaberg, north Queensland
When Caroline died, many people who have had their children taken from them wrote to offer their sympathy and support.

An old friend who had never spoken of his loss before offered me his hand and said: 'I'm so sorry, Alan, that this terrible thing has happened. All I can tell you is that 20 years ago my daughter was going to go to university and she just disappeared.'

Every time he hears of a body being discovered, he thinks it may be her. My daughter was brutally murdered but at least I know where she is. He doesn't know where his child is and that must be terrible.

Feel the fear

Now my son Richard is planning to go to New Zealand, having just come back from working in France over the winter. He's a chef and he likes to travel and work with different cuisines. He's a talented young man and we have to encourage him.

Caroline with camels in Australia
Alan wants to paint the Australia his daughter saw
I was very much the same when I was young - I had to go to America, I had to paint here, there and everywhere.

In my time it wasn't the thing you did - you had a job and you stopped in the job for 40 years and then you had a very good pension. At 28 I'd decided that I didn't want to be a lecturer at an art college for the next 30 years, so I went off to paint.

I am frightened of letting Richard go, I'd like to keep him. But you can't keep your children safe forever; they have to have their freedom. If you let them go, they will come back to you very much matured - as Caroline would have done had she not met that terrible fate.

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Alan Stuttle
"We can't protect our children forever - they must have their freedom"

See also:

09 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
23 Apr 02 | England
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