Tracey Marceau is barely recognisable from the woman she was 18 months ago.
Left grief-stricken after the senseless killing of her 18-year-old daughter Christie on Auckland’s North Shore, Tracey thought she had nothing left to live for.
A new start in Australia, spearheading a campaign to change bail laws, and the recent publication of her book, Christie, are helping with the healing process for a mother who lost her daughter to a violent crime.
While Tracey will never return to the life she once shared with her husband, Brian, and two daughters, her book has helped keep Christie’s spirit alive in a way that media reports about the horrific stabbing could never do.
“Everything is like a statistic and, as much as the media try, it’s quite clinical in the papers. We didn’t want Christie to be remembered for what happened to her – we wanted her to be remembered as a person. The first chapter is solely about her from birth.
“The media reports are often associated with her killer, but I don’t want him to be always associated with her and this book helps with that.”
The book, co-authored by New Zealand Herald journalist Anna Leask, goes into detail about the fateful day on November 7, 2011 when Tracey opened her front door to her daughter’s killer. It was a year before Tracey found the courage to write down those memories.
“I started to write it around the first remembrance day, one year after Christie’s death.
I refuse to call it an anniversary day because I associate that with a celebration,” she says.
Christie was killed by Akshay Anand Chand (then 18) who she knew from their jobs at a local supermarket. They became friends, and Christie tried to help him through his emotional problems, until the day he kidnapped her.
In September 2011, Chand rang Christie and threatened to take some pills. Worried, she went to visit him. But when Christie arrived, Chand locked her in the living room, threatened to stab her, and made her undress down to her underwear, intending to rape her.
For some reason, Chand then changed his mind and allowed her to leave.
After his arrest and five court appearances, he was bailed to his mother’s address, which was just over 300m from Christie’s family home.
On the day of Christie’s death, two months later, Tracey answered the door at 7am to find her daughter’s killer standing there. He threatened her with a knife, and pushed past her as she screamed a warning to her daughter.
But it was too late. Christie ran outside, where Chand caught up with her and stabbed her to death.
The tragedy has been so hard on Tracey that her book describes how she tried to end her own life twice.
The first time was just hours after Christie was killed, when she almost acted on an urge to throw herself in front of an oncoming car, but was bundled to safety by her son-in-law.
“I felt like I wanted to be with Christie, and I know it sounds really stupid because I have my daughter Heather and my husband, Brian, but I felt like I had to be with Christie and that she was by herself.”
The second time was when Tracey was told Chand was going to plead insanity. Tracey believes she didn’t swallow an overdose of pills on that occasion because Christie’s spirit intervened.
“It was almost like she was telling me she was going to be really mad with me. Brian was away and would be devastated and probably end up doing something as well. And I knew it was going to be really selfish to leave Heather.”
Chand was sentenced to three years imprisonment for the kidnapping, but he was found not guilty of her murder by reason of insanity.
He is serving his sentence at The Mason Clinic, a psychiatric unit where he is being detained indefinitely. Tracey believes he could be there longer than if he had gone to jail.
“The Mason Clinic isn’t a very nice place,” she adds. “So perhaps that is a form of justice for Christie. But it didn’t feel like that at the time.”
Launching Christie’s Law, an initiative to reform bail laws, and forming the Christie Marceau Charitable Trust to send students on courses such as Outward Bound, have helped Tracey and Brian stay busy.
“Nothing is going to bring Christie back to us. I know she would want us to help other people,” Tracey says.
Tracey visited a medium who told her that Christie wanted her to forgive her killer.
“But I said, ‘Christie, I’m sorry I can’t’.” One day, I think there will be a form of forgiveness. Some days are good and some days I’m angry.”
A new home in Australia has helped Tracey and Brian, but Tracey is not ready to return to the workforce. “For our own sanity, a new start was what we needed. At least it gives us a chance to be ourselves.
Photos: David White • Hair & make-up: Kathryn Stevens