Hundreds gathered in a park in Melbourne’s CBD on Saturday night in an emotional candlelight memorial for Melbourne backpacker Britt Lapthorne.
The event took place a month to the day since the 21-year-old disappeared in Croatia.
Her badly decomposed body turned up two weeks later, not far from the Dubrovnik nightclub where she was last seen alive.
Her best friend Liza Nas, who organised the memorial, and MC and Britt’s former school principal John Settle and Britt’s mum Elke urged the gathering to make it “a happy celebration of Britt’s life”.
Tears flowed among the crowd, who included Britt’s friends from school and university, friends of her parents who knew the same fate could easily have befallen a child of their own, and others touched by the sad event.
A group of Britt’s friends and family fought back tears as they gathered arm-in-arm in front of the crowd to speak on a microphone and listen to the Perry Como song Catch a Falling Star.
“This has just been going on for so long, I think we just needed to get together and have a cry and celebrate her life,” schoolfriend Jessica Rankin told reporters.
“We still kind of wish or hope that it’s not her.
“Seeing her picture everywhere, that’s been hard, having her photo and article everywhere – that’s my friend.
“She was loved by everyone and respected … she was smart, she was beautiful, a really beautiful person.”
Other friends Lauren McKenzie and Angharad Ludwick said they desperately wanted resolution of the investigation into what had happened to their friend “so we can all keep on living like Britt would want us”.
The Victorian coroner will conduct a second post-mortem examination.
An emotional Elke Lapthorne arrived with her sister Barbara and her son Darren’s partner Jesse and admitted to having mixed feelings about being reunited tomorrow with her husband Dale and Darren.
“Of course I can’t wait, but I am also scared about the four of us being together but not in the way you planned it,” she said.
“I think people, especially backpackers, should get on with their adventures and experiences, but just look after each other a bit more.
“I think Britt possibly was in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong person, and it just should not have happened, not to Britt, not to anyone else.”
Earlier today, Croatian daily newspaper Slobodna Dalmacija reported one of Britt Lapthorne’s fellow backpackers might have information about the night of her disappearance.
It reported it had received an anonymous email with new photos of Lapthorne that claimed they were taken 13 hours before the 21-year-old disappeared.
However, the same newspaper said a Bosnian hostel employee sent the pictures and may also hold the key to Britt’s final hours.