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The punch that killed a boy and destroyed a family.

Thomas Kelly

by BEN FORDHAM

How do you stop an 18 year old who wants to go out with their mates?

On Saturday, Thomas Kelly told his mum and dad he was planning a night out in Kings Cross. He was excited about being invited to a party with a new friend.  His parents didn’t want him to go to Kings Cross and told him so.

But it was a special occasion (it always is, isn’t it?) and it was only going to be a few quiet drinks to celebrate a birthday.  We’ve all been there… begging our parents to just relax and trust us for once.  Hey, I’m 18 now!

How were Kathy and Ralph supposed to say no to their eldest son who’d grown into a mature young man? He had beautiful friends, a lovely new girlfriend and had earned himself a cadetship at a top accountancy firm in Sydney. He was more likely to be spending nights studying commerce at Macquarie University than hanging out in Kings Cross.  But that’s where he ended up on Saturday night.

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The final words from his parents were way too familiar… “Please be careful, please take care”.

Thomas had only been out for a few minutes when someone stepped out of the shadows and punched him in the head for no reason. There was no argument. There was no fight. There was no robbery. Just one punch.

Mum and dad were at home watching TV with their two other children when the hospital called.   By this stage, Thomas was already undergoing emergency surgery but his head injuries were severe.  Before they knew it, Kathy and Ralph were being asked to make a decision about turning off the life support.

Last night, I spoke to Ralph about his beautiful boy who died for no reason:

“He was eighteen years old. He had his very first girlfriend. He’s never shaved. He was going out for the very first time to experience life. And now, as parents we can never go to a 21st birthday party and we can never welcome his wife or children. You think about all of these things and you just realise it’s just such a senseless act of violence and how we have so much violence. It’s just meaningless.”

“We’re just living a terrible, terrible dream and are hoping we’re going to come out of it. You see people in this position and you just never think it will happen to you.”

“In the end Thomas was brain dead, so we had no choice but to turn off his life support system.  Which – for any family – is terribly, terribly difficult.”

“We also decided between the four of us left – his brother, his sister, Kathy and myself – to donate his organs. We feel proud and know that Thomas would have wanted that as well. And if we can save a life – or lives – then he’s done an incredibly brave thing. Hopefully one day when we’re walking down the street we may get a tingle that the person walking past us is someone that Thomas has saved.”

“It’s just crucified the whole family. We just don’t know how to go forward. You know, Tom should be here right now having dinner with us and he’s not here. We just don’t know how we’re going to survive… how we’re going to live through this.”

Someone out there knows something.  Police believe the bloke they’re looking for has done this before.  He’s a coward that gets his kicks from attacking complete strangers.  He’s described as Caucasian, in his mid to late 20s, 170cm tall, with a strong build and brown hair.  If you know something, anything, please call Crime Stoppers right now on 1800 333 000.

Thomas Kelly should be sitting at work right now… showing off his talents, thinking about his study, Facebooking his mates about the fun on Saturday night, chatting to his family and enjoying the buzz of being in love.

One punch ruined all of that.

Now, I don’t have kids yet but I already fear the debate when they want to go out and I want them to stay at home.  How do you stop an 18 year old from going out with their mates?

Ben Fordham hosts 3pm-6pm on 2GB radio and works for the Today Show. You can listen to the full interview between Ben Fordham and Ralph Kelly here.

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