Father struggles to comprehend loss of Jennifer
"Nobody should ever have to bury a daughter."
Graham Board is struggling to comprehend the profound loss of adored daughter Jennifer as he sits in the lounge of the Ingham home he shares with his companion and carer Denise Bowen.
Suffering from the early stages of vascular dementia, the elderly Hinchinbrook cane farmer's raw emotions cycle rapidly between joyous recollections of his precious child, pure grief and an unadulterated anger at a senseless and preventable tragedy.
"So much of these stolen cars have been going on in Townsville and all they get is a slap on the fingers and they let them go out again," he told the Townsville Bulletin through clenched teeth, repeatedly banging the base of his fist on the dining-room table.
"I've lost my only (biological) daughter - they'll say 'get over it Graham, tough luck Graham', I can't, I can't, I can't."
Ms Bowen was more succinct.
"My brother said years ago 'if you stole a horse you could get hanged' and now the horse is your car your car is your horse."
Mr Board, who has an equally loved adopted daughter from his former marriage that ended five years ago, and Mrs Bowen last saw 22-year-old Jennifer when they flew back from Brisbane after a holiday, spending two precious hours at her home in Currajong on Australia Day.
Mr Board said a highlight was when Jennifer, a former student from Ingham State School and Cathedral College in Townsville, unveiled a painting she created based on a photograph she took when he and his two daughters holidayed together in Peru in 2017.
He said the painting was particularly poignant as he had lost all his copies of the photographs and videos he had taken on the trip of a lifetime.
Mrs Bowen, serving coffee as her partner talked about the painting, broke down as she recounted how Jennifer had been proud of her work and how she was looking forward to completing other similar pieces.
"Toward the end of the visit she said 'Dad and Denise, I'd like to tell you something I haven't told other people yet … I've applied to go into the police force … and I have the interview this week."
The couple believed the application had been successful, saying her farm upbringing, work ethic, intelligence, independence, fitness and caring nature would have made her the perfect Queensland Police officer.
Mrs Bowen said she went to bed early on Friday night only to be woken by a telephone call from her partner's daughter Siana at 12.20am on Saturday morning, less than an hour after the fatal collision in Townsville.
"She said, 'Denise, I've got to tell you something bad, dad's going to be very upset,' I said 'okay I'm listening,' and then she just blurted out 'Jennifer has passed away'.
"She said 'dad's going to be so upset' and I said, 'yes that's right,' and she said 'do you want me to tell dad or should I' and said, 'I'll tell your father' … and she said, 'look after my dad will you' and I said, 'of course, I always look after your dad'."
Mr Board said his entire body became numb, taking minutes for his brain to process the dreadful news.
"I couldn't believe it, but I had to believe it."
The couple who met in a choir have a computer but no Internet access and remain largely unaware of the concrete circumstances surrounding Jennifer's death, nor of the outpouring of emotion and anger in not only Townsville, but also Queensland and around Australia.
Mrs Bowen said all she knew were police claims that there had been an "altercation" between passengers in one vehicle and the driver of a stolen vehicle who fled the scene.
"Apparently when police saw the accident, they pronounced her dead on the scene, which I mean she didn't suffer, at least, that's the only …," she said, her voice faltering as she struggled to place her cup on her saucer, tea lapping over.
The couple said the only thing that was keeping them together was their large extended family and the Hinchinbrook community.
"We love this community of Ingham, we've had people visit, one man who has share-farmed with Graham … he said 'Graham, you're not going through this on your own mate, we're going to help you'," Mrs Bowen said.
"When there's a crisis, everybody is there for you, there for you."
Originally published as Father struggles to comprehend loss of Jennifer