She was careful, even then, to write accurately about the accused killer. Smail Ayad had yelled “Allahu akbar” during the attack, the Guardian reported, but he had also rambled incoherently, stabbed a dog and “was apparently infatuated with” her daughter.
“Much nonsense is being spoken in the press about her alleged killer,” Ayliffe wrote. He “is not an Islamic fundamentalist, he has never set foot in a mosque.”
Likewise, police ruled out terrorism, and the Ayad murder case was transferred to a mental-health court.
The sensational stories eventually faded. The parents of Mia Ayliffe-Chung and Tom Jackson mourned and tried to move on.
Then, on Tuesday, both families saw their children's murders on a White House list of terrorist attacks that hadn't gotten enough attention, and Ayliffe said she felt she needed to set down words again.
Her words were joined by the parents of the attack's second victim, Jackson, who expressed their disbelief in an email to the White House and elsewhere.
“I’m pretty sure he and his advisors know full well — or could very easily verify — that Tom and Mia died not as the result of an act of terror but rather through the actions of a disturbed individual,” Les Jackson wrote on Facebook.
“Of course, that doesn’t suit his agenda.”
“The fact anyone would want to make something political out of Tom dying is just beyond me,” Jackson told The Washington Post. “We're still struggling to come to terms with it and probably never will. This has just brought the whole experience of last summer crashing about us.”
The two travelers had barely known each other — or their accused killer — when they intersected last August in a remote Australian hostel where backpackers stopped to raise funds for their travels.
Mia had just started working on a farm — picking up loose rocks, calling her family in England often, “whether it was because she was bored or lonely,” Ayliffe wrote in the Independent.
“Skills achieved; the ability to tell the difference between a rock and a clump of mud and throwing stones really far,” her daughter wrote in one of her last Facebook posts, according to the Guardian.
She had only just met Jackson, another English traveler who had been in the hostel for a few months — determined to see Australia after visiting much of the rest of the world, his father said.
Ayad was staying in the same hostel, writing Facebook posts of a different sort:
The 29-year-old French national was also telling people in the hostel that he planned to marry Mia, the Guardian reported.
Police said they had no romantic relationship before the night of Aug. 23, when others in the hostel said Ayad got a kitchen knife.
She broke away, wounded, and scrambled through the building, according to the news outlet. Witnesses heard Ayad yelling incoherently as he chased her — “Allahu akbar” among other exclamations — then saw him dive head first from a stairwell, killing a dog and finally cornering his victim in a bathroom.
Jackson tried to help her. They were both stabbed many times. She would die in the hostel, and he a few days later in a hospital.
Early news reports made much of two words spoken during that night's horror.
“He said 'Allahu akbar.' It's a bit like me saying I'm Jesus Christ,” Les Jackson said. “It was initially reported it could be a terrorist attack, but we never took that seriously and it was quickly disproved.”
Ayliffe said she felt the same. In her first days of grief, she wrote in the Independent about “the TV engineer who visited yesterday [and] said, 'Well we know what that was about, it was that Moslemic terrorism!' Thanks for clarifying.”
Investigators ruled out the possibility.
“Queensland Police, the Australian Federal Police and the Joint Counter Terrorism Unit … investigated any links between Ayad and radical organisations, and they did not find any evidence of radicalisation,” the Townsville Bulletin reported.
When she planned her daughter's funeral, Ayliffe included an Islamic prayer in the schedule — to oppose what she called “the misrepresentation of Mia’s death in the media as an act of terrorism.”
“It was gone,” Les Jackson said of old terrorism suspicions. “Anyone with a brain knew.”
Until this week, when Alyiffe sent him a report from the United States — from the White House.
And there was the accused killer's name — labeled a terrorist, once again.
“I just can't believe it,” Les Jackson told The Post. “There's a lot of bile, there's a lot of hate — basically, there's a lot of bad stuff going on in the world at the moment.”
“We can do without this type of nonsense,” he said, then broke away from the interview until his wife could calm him down.
Sandra Jackson said she'd already consoled Tom's sister about the White House list — and emailed her displeasure to the president.
“The circumstances of Mia and Tom's deaths prove that those with the strength of character to travel the world and learn about other cultures should be cherished as brave, resilient characters,” she wrote in her open letter to Trump.
When she was done, and reporters began to call again, she set to writing another essay for another magazine.
She shared her draft with The Post.
“Our children’s deaths were ugly, and brutal, and must have been utterly terrifying, and I find my mind attempting to recreate those events on a regular basis,” Ayliffe wrote Tuesday.
“If I can find the strength to do this, surely some White House minion with a list to compile could take the trouble to get his facts right.”
This post has been updated with the draft of Ayliffe's new essay.