Coming Up Tue 12:00 AM  AEST
Coming Up Live in 
Live
BBC Arabic radio

'Happy birthday in heaven': Heartbroken parents reflect on daughter's death, one year after Oatlands crash

Veronique Sakr with her mother Bridget and brother Michael (L), and Veronique with her father Bob (R). Source: Supplied by Bridget Sakr

A year on from the horrific incident which claimed Veronique Sakr’s life, her parents say that healing has become "harder and harder" with time, but they are determined to celebrate their daughter and spread a message of forgiveness.

On this day in 2020, Veronique Sakr, 11, was killed when a ute mounted the kerb as a group of children walked to get ice cream in the western Sydney suburb of Oatlands. 

Her three cousins, Abdallah siblings Antony, 13, Angelina, 12, and Sienna, 8, also lost their lives in the incident which shook their close-knit community.

Reflecting on the incident one year on, Veronique’s mother Bridget Sakr tells SBS Arabic24 that time has done little to ease the family’s pain. 

“You're cutting a cake with her name on it and you sing happy birthday and she's not there. Christmas comes and there's no one there, your daughter's not there to decorate the tree with you. She would be there with me and [her brother] Michael decorating the tree," she says.

“It actually gets harder and harder because we're still living and that piece of your heart has been ripped out and it's not living with you physically. So yes, it doesn't get easier; the pain is constant.”

Oatlands Veronique
Bridget Sakr with her daughter Veronique.
Supplied by Bridget Sakr

She recalls the events of that tragic evening, after receiving a phone call from Danny Abdallah, the father of the three siblings. 

"The phone rang, and I said ‘Danny is everything okay?’ And he said ‘no’, and I said ‘what's wrong?’ He said ‘I've lost my children’ and I said, ‘what do you mean?’

“My first reaction was that they've run through the streets and he can't find them, and then he said ‘they're dead’. And I said ‘well who's dead Danny?’ 

“He said, ‘Antony, Angelina and Sienna’ and I just had to hold something at the time and then I thought to myself to ask about Veronique, but that's so selfish. He just told me his children have died. And I said, ‘what about Veronique, Danny? Is everything okay?’ and he said ‘no, you have to come to Oatlands’."

Parents remember Veronique as a “happy soul”
Her parents remember Veronique as a "happy soul".
Supplied by Bridget Sakr

Bob Sakr, Veronique’s father, says he relives the events of that night every day. 

“If somebody has a heart attack, the heart muscle never repairs, this is how it is with me," he says.

There's part of my life now that is gone, and I suffer, and I hurt every day.

Ms Sakr was kept away when she arrived at the crash scene, as the forensic investigation was taking place following the incident.

0:00

She recalls sitting on the footpath close to the site and remembers being handed rosary beads to pray.

"I wasn't able to see Veronique and that's a pain in my heart.

"I don't know if I wanted to realise she was gone because I didn't want to believe she's gone. I dropped her off. How can she be gone?"

 

Mr Sakr describes telling Veronique's brother Michael what had happened to his sister as "one of the hardest moments" of his life.

"I went up to him. I grabbed him. I said to him 'listen'. He asked, 'where is she?' I said 'Michael relax, calm down'. I was trying to slow him down.

“I said to him, 'habibi, Michael, Veronique is gone. She's dead. She's gone'. And he said 'no, no, how am I going to do it, dad?' He said, 'how am I going to live the rest of my life without her?'”

Oatlands Bob Sakr
Bob Sakr with his daughter Veronique and son Michael.
Supplied by Bob Sakr

Mr Sakr says he told his son, “Whatever we have to do, we will do it together. We'll get through this together."

I was hoping it wasn't real and I was going to wake up, but it really just shocked me.

The driver of the vehicle has pleaded guilty to four charges of manslaughter and other offences and is accused of having a blood-alcohol level of three times the legal limit and having cocaine and MDMA in his system.

Ms Sakr says despite the grief, her stance towards the driver one year on has not changed.

“Forgiveness is very important because first of all there is no use saying that you're a Christian or living in Christ's life or sending your children to Catholic or Christian schools if you're not going to follow the footsteps of Christ.

“Forgiveness allows you to be able to move on with life with your child and your family, without anger and without hatred.

"I pray for the driver that he actually does meet God one day and finds him. It helps me not to be angry because anger is contagious.”

The families of the deceased children launched I4give Day in Sydney on Sunday with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian in attendance.

Prime minister Scott Morrison, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and family release doves in honour of children killed a year ago during the launch of i4give Day
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and family members release doves in honour of the children during the launch of I4give Day
NCA NEWSWIRE

Ms Sakr says she and Veronique’s stepfather Craig, are marking the anniversary as Veronique’s “rebirth”. 

"Happy birthday in heaven Veronique. Happy first birthday. I hope you're having a great time. Thank you for looking after us, giving us the strength, looking after your brother and myself, you know, your dad Craig, all of us.

“Thank you for reminding us of the importance of life, reminding us about our faith. Thank you for helping those in need. Thank you for curing those who are feeling lonely, or in grief, or disabled, or in pain, or sick.”

A vigil will be held on February 1 at the crash site along Bettington Rd, Oatlands, at 7pm.


 

Readers seeking support can contact Lifeline crisis support on 13 11 14, Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467 and Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 (for young people aged 5 to 25). More information is available at Beyond Blue.org.au and lifeline.org.au.