His beautiful bright and beaming smile, the boy in the red t-shirt became one recognised around the nation. It felt like we knew him. He could have easily been a nephew, a cousin, a neighbour, one of the kids from soccer, or worse he could have been a son…my son. As the deep grey cloud finally lifted a little across Brisbane city yesterday when the evil predator who took Daniel Morcombe’s life was sentenced to what we hope means life – but at least 20 years – imprisonment yesterday, there’s every chance we all breathed a sigh of relief. A sigh because it wasn’t our son, it wasn’t our brother, cousin, nephew or close friend but it very well could have been.
Almost eleven years ago the innocence of a quite normal family was stolen when Bruce and Denise Morcombe’s son was waiting for a a bus. In broad daylight. On a busy highway, with plenty of cars and traffic going by. It took just a few minutes for their lives to change forever. Those same parents made it their life mission to never ever forget their son. They battled for years – 10 in fact – to bring the vicious killer of their boy, and the attacker of countless more young boys, to justice. They battled and fought and courageously brought the entire nation’s attention to child safety. For that we can be forever in their debt.
Last night driving home from school, the news bulletin came over the radio. Ten y o was in the back seat musing about his day. ‘Quiet,’ I said. ‘Mummy needs to listen’. I waited for the report to finish, then looked up at my little boy’s eyes in the rear view mirror and I had the talk. The talk that probably made us both feel pretty uncomfortable, but the talk I needed to have, as a mother and fierce protector of my child. ‘The little boy they talk of was 13 and was taken the week before you were born,’ I started. ‘Do you know what a pedophile is?’ I asked. He thought for a moment. ‘No.’ ‘Well it’s someone who likes to have sex and do bad things to young children. And there are plenty of those vile and disgusting people in our community. You need to be careful.’ He was quite horrified and I saw what might have been a moment of my little 10 y o boy being exposed to a world he knew nothing about.
I explained how they can be anywhere, and don’t always look like bad people. They can be online, in the shops, at your soccer game, in a park or at the beach. They might want to talk to you, offer you a ride somewhere, some lollies or even a turn on their ipod but you must never ever trust anyone you don’t know. Was it a bit of scaremongering I was striking into my child? Possibly. I’ve never spoken to him about these predators before. He knows what rape is. And now he knows what a pedophile is too. Because the trouble is, 10 y o trusts EVERYONE. He’s a friendly kid – which has always been one of his greatest qualities – but it could also so easily be to his detriment. He’s well mannered and knows it’s rude not to answer someone who’s asking you a question – except when that someone has other intentions.
How can we make our kids understand the difference between when a person is just being kind and when they want to harm you? How can we make them weary of people who might want to harm them? When we got home as I watched the grief-stricken face of Daniel’s mother Denise on the news, a face that has aged far beyond her years in the past devastating decade, I hugged my boy in tight. I still have him, she will never get to hug one of her three sons again. In her honour, for all their family’s tireless work in child safety, it was my duty to tell my son. An ad for their interview on tomorrow night’s 60 Minutes came on. ‘Can I watch that, mummy?’ he asked. I bristled. ‘Well you can watch a bit of it,’ I tell him. A bit that will hopefully give him enough awareness never to ever trust anyone who would want to take his innocence, or worst still…his life. With love and blessings to the Morcombe family, Lady MamaG xox