The aftermath of the attack on London Bridge in June last year. Picture: AFP
The aftermath of the attack on London Bridge in June last year. Picture: AFP

‘Every sliding door that could slide, slid’

THE parents of a young Brisbane woman slaughtered overseas have told of sharing an incredibly tender moment with their daughter in death.

Bayside's Sara Zelenak, 21, was murdered during the London Bridge terror attack last year.

Three days after arriving in the UK capital after Sara's death, her mother Julie Wallace and stepfather Mark Wallace made the grim journey to view the body.

"Mark and I both held Sara's hand. Her hand was warm and I felt she was squeezing my hand back," Ms Wallace told ABC's Australian Story in an episode to air on Monday night.

Sara Zelenak was killed in the London terror attack last year.
Sara Zelenak was killed in the London terror attack last year.

"Ever since then she's been with me, ever since. And she still holds my hand every day."

Sara had set out on the European pilgrimage so familiar to young Australians.

The industrious 21-year-old quickly found a job nannying in London.

Her mother told Australian Story Sara was "so excited about going on this wonderful adventure."

"She really needed to do this, to grow and see the world because she loved travelling,'' she said.

On June 3, Sara was enjoying one of her first nights out in the pulsating English capital - but three terrorists ploughed a van into pedestrians on London Bridge and began attacking nearby revellers with hunting knives.

Sara was stabbed to death. South Australian woman Kirsty Boden was also killed.

"Sarz was supposed to be working and at the last minute she got the night off, and then everything changed," Ms Wallace said.

"Every sliding door that could slide, slid. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Mr Wallace added: "It's a big city, there's millions of people there and for our little girl to be involved (in a terror attack), it was never once a thought that we ever had. We thought she would be safe."

The couple had planned to join Sara on June 30. They were going to meet in Paris at the Eiffel Tower. Instead, their world collapsed.

 

Sara Zelenak’s parents Julie and Mark Wallace with Candice Hedge, who survived the attack. Picture: Supplied
Sara Zelenak’s parents Julie and Mark Wallace with Candice Hedge, who survived the attack. Picture: Supplied

The grief was excruciating. Ms Wallace threw herself into work. But for Mr Wallace, a workplace he once shared with Sara as she saved for her big trip was only a grim reminder.

The couple did find solace in alternative therapies - yoga, reiki, kinesiology. And from there they threw themselves into building a legacy for their daughter.

"If I wasn't doing this, I'd be an angry man that probably would not want to be a positive member of society. We want to create something big that everyone remembers Sara Zelenak," Mr Wallace said.

Sara Zelenak’s parents Julie and Mark Wallace on their See You in Paris ride.
Sara Zelenak’s parents Julie and Mark Wallace on their See You in Paris ride.

Sarz Sanctuary - a retreat offering a range of therapies for victims of trauma - is taking shape just a little over a year since her death. Retreats are planned globally and locally, with a site scouted in Noosa.

The Wallaces returned to London in June for a test run of their proposed fundraising event - the "Meet You in Paris" bike ride.

It's an eight-day cycling event from near the cathedral where Sara lost her life to the Eiffel Tower, where they had planned to meet. It was physically tough but they made it.

"I was ready to throw my bike in the bin (but) Sarz, I could just hear it in my head, 'Come on Mum, you can do it, keep going'," Ms Wallace said. "She was with me the whole time, I could just feel her on my back, riding along.

Julie and Mark Wallace's story can be seen on ABC's Australian Story on Monday at 8pm and on Iview.